“At The Autism Treatment Center of America, we have had the incredible honor of working with thousands of children and adults on the Autism Spectrum. It has been our experience time and again, that our children understand so much more than they are actually able to show us.
“Our children are moving through the world in the best way they know how… trying their utmost to navigate their sensory experience and all the complexities of the neurotypical world – they can definitely seem not to be taking in the world around them or listening to what we are saying at times. However, if you have seen some version of any of the following scenarios, you may consider this differently.
1) Your child makes a beeline for the cabinet with their favorite sugary snack in it (the snack that you thought you had hidden so well from their reach!).
2) Your child responds to a request that you make…. 30 minutes later.
3) Your child seems to know how to read when no one taught them.
“These are just some of the common situations we have seen, where our children have shown us they are taking in and understanding a great deal more than they are given credit for. Yes, our children may have an autism diagnosis, but they are smart as a whip!
“Not only have our children shown us on many occasions they are hearing and taking in information, but we now have a community of older, non-speaking individuals on the spectrum who are spelling to communicate. They are confirming what we at The Son-Rise Program have known for years, that even if they use/used little or no verbal communication for most of their lives, they are fully aware, intelligent, and capable.
“Here are some things you can implement with your child or adult on the spectrum that honors this belief – that they understand WAY MORE than you may have thought.
• Be mindful of what you say and how you say it around your child. For example, talk to your child, not about them, like they understand you and to the age level that they are currently.
• Use explanations and give useful information that will help them to trust you and respond to you. For instance (if you want to go outside and play right now, it’s best to wear a coat and hat, I love you, and would like you to be warm and comfortable.) This is in replacement of simply putting their coat and hat on them without their consent.
• Leave space and time (even a few minutes if need be) after requesting your child. Sometimes, the process of taking in and responding to you may be delayed.
• Express your belief in your child directly to your child, there is nothing to lose by doing this (e.g. ‘hey, I know you are crying because you want to stay up late tonight and it’s super important that we all rest and sleep now so we can rejuvenate ourselves. I really believe in you!’)
“Let us know how you have seen that your child was taking in and understanding something when it appeared at first that they were not… we’d love to hear your experiences!”
Becky Damgaard, Senior Son-Rise Program Teacher