As Autism Awareness month wraps up, I thought I‘d share my learning moments from working 15-plus years with my students on the spectrum, their families and my dedicated co-workers who support them:
- Autism is a spectrum. There’s not a cure or a fix, but there are evidence-based interventions and nuances for each child that will help him or her succeed. My job (and yours) is to recognize those little details and shine a light on them.
- I’ve developed a super appreciation for things that spin, shake, light up and squish. I also appreciate when these features suddenly become appalling and over-stimulating.
- Sometimes the best way to get a child’s attention is to speak just above a whisper or not talk at all. Less is more and often things don’t just sound loud, they feel loud to a person with autism.
- Sand and water play are seriously awesome.
- Regardless of where a child is on the spectrum, you can find an activity that feels like fun and learning at the same time.
- Candy doesn’t always taste or feel good, but hot sauce tastes delicious on French fries.
- Take the short and long view on augmentative and alternative communication. Work on the here and now to make your clients efficient communicators, then model your expectations to bring them to the next level. Make them life-long communicators.
- Students and families will show you when they are ready—ready to try something new, ready to accept who they are. You just have to listen, be patient and push. But not too hard.
- Finally, having co-workers who are cued in and can step in and help at a moment’s notice is invaluable and—when in action—nothing less than a work of art.
What lessons have you learned from working with clients on the spectrum?
Kerry Davis EdD, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist in the Boston area, working with children who have significant communication challenges. She conducts trainings and workshops, and serves as a volunteer clinician and consultant for Step by Step Guyana, a school for children with autism in South America. The opinions expressed in this blog are her own, and not those of her employer. firstname.lastname@example.org.