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Autism In Children and Young People

As part of society’s journey towards inclusivity and understanding, and a family’s journey towards thriving, it’s essential to recognise and appreciate neurodiversity. Autism encompasses a diverse range of experiences that shape how individuals perceive and interact with the world.

You may already be well-versed in the world of autism, or you may be reading this as a parent or young person getting to grips with what autism is, and what a potential or confirmed diagnosis could mean for you and your family.

Let’s delve into what autism means, particularly in the lives of children and young people, celebrating their unique strengths and challenges with a neuro-affirming lens.

What is Autism?

Autism, sometimes referred to as Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a term that encompasses the wide array of neurological variances within the autism community. It’s important to note that language is key, and many autistic people prefer the word ‘condition’ instead of ‘disorder’, as ‘disorder’ has a negative implication. Where possible, it’s best to just refer to ‘autism’, or a person who is ‘autistic’, as it emphasises the inherent diversity and complexity of autism experiences, without pathologising language. Autism isn’t a flaw to be fixed but a fundamental aspect of an individual’s identity and makeup.

What are some characteristics of autism?

Communication styles

Children and young people with autism may communicate in distinct ways, showcasing creativity and depth. Some may prefer nonverbal methods like sign language or visual aids, while others excel in verbal expression, albeit with unique nuances. (When autistic people use a word, it is a carefully chosen word thought through for its meaning!) Embracing these differences fosters genuine connection and understanding.

Social interaction preferences

Autism influences how children and young people navigate social interactions. While some may enjoy group settings and forge deep connections, others may find solace in solitary activities that fuel their passions. Recognising and respecting these preferences cultivates inclusive environments where everyone feels valued.

Special interests and intense focus

Autistic people often discover passionate interests and remarkable focus on them. Whether it’s deep-diving into intricate details of a specific topic or sharing their knowledge and appreciation of their preferred activity, these offer vital outlets for self-expression and growth. Encouraging exploration and curiosity nurtures their innate talents and brings them a sense of calm.

Sensory sensitivities and appreciation

Sensory experiences shape the world for autistic individuals. While some may thrive in sensory-rich environments, others may struggle with feelings of overwhelm and discomfort. Everything from visual information, noise, or textures can cause a strong nervous system reaction. Creating sensory-friendly spaces and honouring individual preferences promotes a sense of peace, safety and empowerment.

Embracing neurodiversity with curiosity, not criticism

Autism isn’t a deficit to be fixed but a vital aspect of the diverse human experience. By embracing neurodiverse needs, we acknowledge the richness of different perspectives and talents within our communities. Through empathy, acceptance, and advocacy, we pave the way for a more inclusive society where every child and young person can thrive.

Understanding autism in children and young people is a journey of compassion, acceptance, and celebration. By embracing neuro-affirming language and perspectives, we honour the inherent worth and dignity of every individual. Let’s champion inclusivity, foster genuine connections, and create spaces where diversity flourishes. Together, we can build a world where everyone’s unique brilliance shines brightly.