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10 Tips for Parents & Professionals to Promote Positive Relationships with those on the Autism Spectrum

The label is not the problem as much as the fear of the unknown and preconceived notions with the label. We must first understand the challenges facing autism, then the communication and sensory challenges that result in social skill deficits and behavioural challenges. In addition, get past the label drama by offering people a better way to understand what’s happening with your child. This ultimately supports differences and discourages discrimination. People on the spectrum can be very literal, so don’t take what they say personally. Look for things that may cause miscommunication, such as lighting and uncomfortable clothing. Understand your child’s lack of inability to process and express him or herself. Also, teach your child to balance him or herself physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and intellectually.
Tune into empathy, not sympathy. Imagine what they may be thinking or feeling. They have difficulties expressing, understanding, and showing emotions, which makes the world confusing for you, them and others, but with interventions you can help.
Help to bridge relationships between peers and those with autism. This is an intuitive process, so be careful of boundaries. Try to help your child find a buddy to coach him. Get them to volunteer, sign up for an acting class or try to find others who have something in common. Building and fostering, nourishing, young relationships with peers, employers, family and community enhances the fabric of humanity.
Share the knowledge, by raising awareness and understanding of autism and the issues surrounding it: Typically, kids have issues around what is and what is not safe, and due to their literal nature, they are often seen as blunt and offensive. Educate peers, teachers, family and the community.
All people learn in different ways. Whether they process their world through sight, sound or touch determines the quality of their communication. Since many people with autism are generally visual learners and think in pictures, it is important to communicate with pictures and words. You can find out how your child learns best by using the free Personal Learning Styles Inventory at www.

If you want to communicate better, it is helpful to write the message. You can even use pictures to make your message easier to understand.

This can be as simple as explaining the proper way to relate to friends, or writing a script for a movie or play.

The “box” is the family unit surrounding the person with autism, a complete entity unto itself. Many times, people inside the “box” either go into denial or have spousal challenges.

Those outside of the “box,” such as teachers, in-laws, and others, who don’t “live” it, may not understand the many family dynamics. Keep an open mind and treat both sides of the “box” equally.

While working together for the common goal of helping a person with autism build relationships, include parents, educators and professionals on the same page. It doesn’t help the person if the support team can’t agree. Always choose your battles carefully.
Empower people with autism to be who they are. Your child knows much more than you might imagine. Once you let go a bit, it can help your child build self-esteem, while they learn to be as independent as possible.
Autism is all about your child, and it is critical you know it is not about your ego, personality or lack of understanding. Never lose sight that your child is the focus of attention. Don’t be afraid of what these special children know; be afraid of what they don’t know.

“In the world of autism, there is always a beautiful tomorrow.
With love, caring, and kindness, it is just around the corner.”

Myth #1: People with autism are incapable of loving.

Autistic children love their parents with such passion. People with autism are angelic, loving human beings. The other day a mother of an autistic boy ordered some very cool sneakers for her son. She called him over and presented him with his new, sharp, teenage shoes. He put them on and began to jump all around the house with a big smile on his face. He slowed down, looked up at at his mom, and whispered, “I love you, Mom.”

Myth #2: Everyone with autism is “Rainman” or a savant.

What is your child’s skill? Autism is a spectrum disorder, a continuum of traits, gifts and strengths. I know people on the spectrum who have a Ph.D. and I know children on the spectrum who have Downs Syndrome. I have friends with autism who are married, as well as those who are embroiled in a terrific struggle with daily life, so everyone with autism is not “Rainman”.

Myth #3: Autism affects life span

People with autism do not die earlier than those who don’t have autism. Most lead long, rich and fulfilling lives.

Myth #4: If your child with autism does not speak by a certain age, he will never speak.

One girl did not speak until age six. After age six, she was asked, “What do you want to do tomorrow?” “I want to bath, I want to dress, and I want to go to Learning Center.” Thanks for exploding that myth, young lady.

Myth #5: All people with autism want to be cured.

I know many people with autism who truly love and enjoy their lives. They don’t feel they have a disorder, and simply think and exist on a different plane. They resent the word “cure.” They are not diseased or broken, and thus do not need to be cured. I do believe in biomedical intervention and know recovered people, but a great portion of the population with autism is very happy the way they are.

Myth #6: People with autism do not develop friendships.

Untrue! One boy has many friends. He relates to people on so many levels. He has maintained all types of relationships. Albeit, they may not be typical friendships, but he truly enjoys his pals. My son and I are good friends, and he and his mother have developed an outstanding relationship.

Myth #7: People with autism will never make eye contact.

Direct eye contact is very painful for autistic children when they are young. He would catch glimpses of us by using his peripheral vision. One young man told me that he did not know what his mother’s face looked like until he was ten! Eye contact can be overwhelming and facial expressions may be confusing, but eventually most of our kids will look right at us and smile.

Myth #8: Autism is a psychological disorder, although we treat it behaviourally.

Autism is not psychological. We now know that autism is a complicated developmental disorder. It may be genetically predisposed, and some believe triggered by environmental factors.

Myth #9: Bad parenting causes autism.

Do you remember the term, Refrigerator Mom? In the 1960s, psychologists decided that mothers of children with autism were so “cold” that they made their kids withdraw and develop strange behaviors with repetitive characteristics. Through the 1970s, because of this theory, mothers of children with autism suffered from blame, guilt and self-doubt, caused by the idea that their inadequate parenting caused the autism. Some children were actually placed with other “more responsive” families. They did not improve. Autism has nothing to do with parenting skills.

Myth #10: Autism is rare.

Most current estimates say that about one in a 54 children are diagnosed with autism. Autism is growing at alarming rates. Nearly everyone knows, or knows of a person with autism!

Myth #11: Nutrition, by itself, can cure autism.

Families have made tremendous strides utilizing the casein-free, gluten-free diet and other nutritional programs. Kids with autism tend to have digestive problems too, but nutrition is only one part of the puzzle.

Myth #12: Teaching social skills will develop social relationships.

Making friends can be tough for anyone, yet more difficult for people with developmental disorders. Kids and adults with autism do make friends, and we will discuss friendships for your child later in the book.

Myth #13: People with autism are dangerous.

Most outbursts are due to pain, lack of communication, frustration or sensory overload. This is not a dangerous population.

Myth #14: People with autism do not smile.

The look on many children’s face when we take them to buy videos is one big smile!

Myth #15: People with autism will outgrow it.

Not true! Your child may appear “normalize”, but will always have autism.

Myth #16: People with autism don’t want friends.

Not true! Ask your child.

Myth #17: People with autism cannot conceptualize.

Not true! Again, watch and ask your child.

Myth #18: People with autism do not have passion, energy, or emotion.

Not true! Kids with autism can be emotional, passionate and energetic!