This past Tuesday, Nov. 9, the Student Disability Center and the Counseling Center hosted a workshop for Autism Awareness. Hosted by Luke Hart and Kimberly Arauz, the workshop gave an overview of some of the common symptoms of Autism, and how Autism is misunderstood by many.
Those with Autism usually experience some sort of deficit in social communication and interaction. This means that when a person is on the spectrum, they sometimes experience a failure of social reciprocity: the back-and-forth nature of conversation. For example, one of my friends (who will not be named for confidentiality purposes) has Autism, and whenever I ask him “what’s up,” he says “fine,” and walks away. People who aren’t familiar with this aspect of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) might misinterpret this as rude. My friend isn’t being rude by not asking me how I am; it just does not click with him.
People with Autism will also experience restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities. People with these symptoms will often pick things to obsess over. For the main character in Atypical, a Netflix series where the main character has autism, it is penguins. For the friend I mentioned before, it has changed in his life. At one point, he was all about Titanic, and, currently, he is really into horror films. This is one of the ways my friend and I really connected. After school, I used to go over to his house, and we would pick a movie to watch. Because of him, I have watched so many great movies.
People on the spectrum will also sometimes experience tactile sensitivity; certain textures can trigger people with ASD. Some will have auditory sensitivity. There is a lot of variety, which is why autism is on a spectrum. People with autism have varying levels of functioning and symptoms.
Unfortunately, our friends on the spectrum face a lot of stigma. Our friends’ behavior might be misinterpreted as rude, or weird because they’re unaware of personal boundaries, and people in general are unsure of how to communicate with those diagnosed with ASD. There are crucial ways to be an ally to someone with ASD:
- Be Patient
- People with ASD will sometimes need more time processing different stimuli.
- Discuss Their Interests
- If you wanted to start a conversation with Sam from Atypical, for example, you would talk about penguins.
- Communicate Clearly
- Do not beat around the bush. Be very clear, and, again, be patient.
- Respect Sensory Differences
- For example, when I go to Disneyland with my friend, we bring headphones to help drown out loud noises.
- Do Not Assume An Intellectual Disability
- According to the presentation, many people with ASD have a normal to high IQ.
- Stand Up For Them
- If you see someone being rude to a person on the spectrum, say something.
The Student Disability Services Center and the Counseling Center are here for our Poets with ASD.
Feature image: Emerson Little / Quaker Campus