Historically, this article has been titled “Autism Awareness Month.” However, awareness is simply not enough. It is time to promote acceptance of those who are neurodiverse and to embrace those differences while providing needed supports. Below are a few tips that may help. This year, we focus on our adult population. Remember that each person is different, and specific tips may not apply to all. Some will need many accommodations, and some none. It is important to get to know the person first.
- Teaching individuals to advocate for their own needs is an important skill that can ease the transition from school age to adulthood options. It could be as simple as teaching them to request their favorite food by handing you a picture, or for someone with more verbal skills, to explain their communication and accommodation needs to their college professor or employer.
- Remember that people on the autism spectrum are people first with dreams, desires, fears, and strengths like each of us. Some want to marry and have children. Others prefer not to. Some want to attend college, and others may not. Some desire friends, and others do not. Be careful in making assumptions based on the label. Get to know the person first.
- Every individual is different, so it’s important to be mindful of sensory input in the individual’s environment. Consider the visual input (e.g. fluorescent or bright lights), auditory input (e.g. loud noises), tactile input (e.g. certain surfaces, textures, fabrics), and smells/tastes (strong perfumes or certain foods) that may be bothering the individual on the autism spectrum. If sensory issues are not addressed, repetitive behaviors and a failure to respond to certain relevant stimuli may develop.
- Break work tasks down into smaller steps. Showing pictures of each step, modeling the task, and saying each step out loud can facilitate learning. For highly literate individuals, write out the steps involved in planning and executing the task or assignment. This is a step in the process of giving them a framework for developing their own plans. Set individuals up for success and acknowledge when desired outcomes are reached.
- Try to keep language as concrete as possible by using minimal words when making your point or providing information. Avoid the use of sarcasm and idioms, as these may be taken literally.
- Some individuals will engage in restricted and repetitive behaviors because they have a limited repertoire of alternative behaviors and interests. It is important to expose individuals with ASD to a variety of activities and experiences, and to explicitly teach them leisure skills.
- When building friendships for teens or adults with ASD, connect them with people who have similar interests (e.g., attending a Japanese Anime conference or enrolling in a chess club). This is likely to be more effective than attempting to teach them to interact around interests that seem more typical for their age group, such as team sports.
- For some, breaks and calming strategies should be considered as part of the daily routine. However, unstructured times and breaks can also be a source of anxiety and confusion for some. Specific directions and checklists of what to do during break times can be beneficial. Rules around break times may also be helpful (e.g., where to take a break, who to talk to, etc.). Having a “wait time” activity (i.e. technology, reading) can also ease this anxiety. By using a respectful and proactive approach, the individual will build self-esteem and confidence, as well as reduce anxiety.
- Uncertainty and inconsistency in schedules can create anxiety that increases the risk of meltdowns, aggression, and shutdowns. Individuals on the autism spectrum need reassurance and information about upcoming events and changes. They may benefit from having a schedule of daily events and/or reading scripts about changes to their schedule that they are about to experience (e.g. social story about upcoming vacations).
- Preparation for change is important. However, preparation too far in advance of an event may actually heighten anxiety making the event challenging. Know how many days in advance each person needs to be prepared.
- When pursuing options for the individual, build upon strengths and interests. Every person on the autism spectrum has things they prefer to do or not to do. Build upon these strengths and interests, instead of focusing on challenges.
- Listen to the voices and ideas of those on the spectrum. Read books about adults who have lived the experience of an autism spectrum disorder. This can give you great insight into the person you are living with, married to, and/or supporting.
The Library at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community has an extensive collection of materials for check out. You can search our collection online via Search Results | IUCAT. Or you can contact the library directly by calling 812-855-9396 or 800-437-7924 (in Indiana); or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the Indiana Resource Center for Autism, visit our website at https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/irca. Also, be sure to “like” IRCA on Facebook, and join us on Twitter and Pinterest.
Pratt, C. (2021). Autism acceptance month: Tips for supporting adults on the autism spectrum. Retrieved from https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/irca/articles/autism-acceptance-month.