DIYA DEV X-D
Since 2008, 2nd of April has been internationally recognised as World Autism Awareness Day. It is hosted by the United Nations along with World Health Organisation and Autism Speaks. They focus on personal efforts for raising awareness and eliminating negative stigma associated around autism. Since the initiation of this day, awareness and research revolving autism has increased.
As someone who lives a privileged life, I often overlook issues that are centred on autism. Neither have I had a lot of interaction with the autistic community. Saying this, I’ve realised how isolated their community is and how we don’t make them feel good enough. Even when we can interact, we feel uncomfortable and moreover, we make them feel uncomfortable. That isn’t their fault, but rather ours because they don’t really understand how to go about things. Autistic children interpret things differently than we do. What maybe ordinary sights, touches, sounds to us may be downright painful for them. Their senses are out of sync. As students, we have to make them feel comfortable in their surroundings, as we all share the same environment.
Autistic children still don’t know what they are capable of and what they are not, just as us. They are not just one thing; autism isn’t who they are, it’s just a part of who they are. Often, we set our expectations for them too low, thinking they aren’t capable of doing this or that, which is wrong. Doing this, even they give up. We aren’t aware of what they’re capable of doing either. We have to encourage them to try new things, but not push them into it either. They are a part of society as well, and can contribute just as much as we can.
In a public area, such as a playground, autistic children tend to stay away from the other children. It is not that they don’t want to play with the others, but that they don’t know how to start a conversation or join play. Instead of shying away, we should encourage them to join us and encourage the other children to invite them to play along. Avoiding them will only make them feel more isolated and different from us. Have you ever felt left out in a group of friends, or felt lonely because you didn’t have anyone to play with? That’s how they feel all the time.
It is necessary to make our surrounding ‘autism friendly’. According to Wikipedia, Autism friendly means, ‘being aware of social engagement and environmental factors affecting people on the autism spectrum, with modifications to communication methods and physical space to better suit individual’s unique and special needs’. Schools can adopt several measures to make the campus autism friendly. School can stick to simple colour scheme, which prevents triggering sensory overload. A routine should be followed properly, the campus should be quiet and peaceful.
Autistic children take in more sensory information and are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of input. They are also used to a routine, and disturbance of their routine can trigger anxiety and meltdowns. Teachers play a vital role in the success of an autistic child. Teachers should give autistic children extra time to answer, as they process information slower, although they are listening and they will respond.
As students, and future leaders of tomorrow, we have to help autistic children fit in better, and encourage others to accept autism. We must be patient with them and learn to interact with them. Instead of seeing them as a liability, and noticing their limitations we must learn to see their strengths. They rely on us and it is our duty to support and guide them, as that will lead to their success, and their success will mean the success of society. Let’s love them and lead them to a better future.