Disability Information for Someone who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Customized Example
Contributed by Beverly Vicker, CCC-SLP
This article was written for a specific young adult with autism who had mild cognitive challenges. The format is direct and re-assuring of self worth and self help ability while trying to address his fear that he would soon die as did a relative who had a fatal form of cancer. Similar information can be customized to suit a particular age, ability level, gender and the interests/challenges of any person with ASD who needs this basic introductory information. Other print materials are commercially available for the person who wishes more general or comprehensive information; consult the catalogues of the major publishers of ASD material.
Jeff’s Fact Sheet about Having Autism
Jeff, you and over 1.5 million other individuals in the United States have a developmental disability which is called an "autism spectrum disorder” or ASD. That is a lot of people! You have the type of ASD that is called autism.
Having this disability means that you are still like everyone else in most ways.
- You eat favorite foods like pizza and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
- You brush your teeth twice a day.
- You have favorite clothes, usually in the color blue.
- You go places such as the grocery store and the Mall.
- You visit your doctor for a check up.
- You enjoy special activities like listening to music or working on the computer.
- You learn to do new things such as playing bowling using your Wii system.
You share personal abilities or traits with many other people but in some cases you excel or do better when compared to others. Every now and then you may need to remind yourself of this. For instance, remember that:
- You are good at remembering factual information. For example, others can depend on you to remember important instructions or rules as well as the latest sports information about your favorite teams.
- You are very, very honest. For example, others can trust you to never steal from another co-worker or fellow resident.
- You are a good worker. You begin your job right away and stay on task until break time. Your boss thinks you are an important worker at his company and a good role model for others.
- You are kind to others. You are always willing to help someone if they ask for assistance. For example, you are great about carrying in the groceries or getting something for someone who is in a wheelchair.
Having an autism spectrum disorder, however, also means that your body and brain sometimes work differently from that of other people. As a result, you do and experience things differently from people who do not have autism.
- You hear sounds that are louder or bothersome only to you.
- You like to spend long periods of time watching unusual things such as the spinning of a fan or movements made with your fingers.
- You rock your body to help yourself relax when you feel nervous.
- You get quite upset when people talk too fast and you do not understand their message. You sometimes forget that you could ask people to talk more slowly.
- You like to make lists of unusual things that are of major importance to you. Over and over again you may make up or write these same lists.
- You have a hard time making friends. Keeping or being a best friend for several years is even harder.
- You have difficulty figuring out how other people feel and why they act in a certain way. Others seem to interpret events and your behavior differently than you do.
- You like to talk about topics that other people do not seem to find interesting such as the mileage between cities and air conditioners.
- You feel more comfortable when things always stay the same. Of course, things don't stay the same.
Colds and cancer are diseases. Autism spectrum disorder is different. It is not a disease. Autism is a disability. For right now, there is no special medicine or treatment that would make it go away. No one can catch it from being near you. People with an autism spectrum disorder usually live a normal life span. Hopefully, you will live to be 70 or 80 years old.
How did you get an autism spectrum disorder?
No one knows exactly why your brain developed slightly different. Your parents did not do anything wrong; neither did anyone else. The differences just happened. The differences in your brain influence the way you do and understand things.
How can you help yourself?
Many books have been written by people who have an autism spectrum disorder. You might want to read one or have someone read one with you.
Jeff, you can be successful at home, school, or work. You can use schedules, rule books, social stories, relaxation strategies, exercise programs, medication, or other strategies to help yourself cope or learn better. Many people care about you. They will be glad to help you be a happy and successful person who just happens to have an autism spectrum disorder called autism.