Many autistic children remain misunderstood both by the world around them and even by their parents, teachers, and caregivers. Accurately expressing their thoughts and feelings is an inherent problem for those with autism spectrum disorders; therefore, it can be difficult to understand their behaviors.
I am not having a tantrum
Tantrums are orchestrated to be manipulative, to get my own way. What is happening to me is called a meltdown. I cannot control it; I cannot stop it. Please understand that it comes from being overwhelmed and frustrated because I cannot communicate what I am thinking or feeling.
I am easily overwhelmed
I can see and hear everything. I hear the hum of the lighting, the tick of the clocks, the cars zooming by outside my window and it all hurts. The sounds are too loud, the lights are too bright, and the tags in my clothing are hurting or itching to the point I want to tear off all my clothing. I am experiencing all of this at the same time.
I am very smart
I am intelligent, often extremely so but I learn differently. I have difficulty focusing because of all the sights and sounds in school, and have trouble remembering or even hearing what is said to me sometimes because of all these distractions. But—I can learn if you just take the time to figure out what works best for me.
I am a person too
Please be careful what you say to me. Even if I cannot speak, I can still hear and understand what you say and my feelings can be hurt. I will be able to accomplish great things with your continued help, love, and support.
I may take your words literally
My mind is extremely literally and concrete; therefore, I have difficult with metaphoric language or “figures of speech.” If you tell me that it is raining cats and dogs outside, I may run to the door to see them falling out of the sky.
I need to know what to expect
I thrive on routines and rituals. I need to know what to expect; what we are going to do; what comes next. Not knowing is scary and causes me to feel anxious and panicky. Changes to our plans or routines can cause meltdowns because of my fear so please try to warn me of changes in advance. Explain to me what to expect so that I will not be afraid.
I want friends
It is not true that I want to be alone all the time, or that I do not care about friendships. I want friends like everyone else does, I just don’t know how to make or keep them. After failing too many times, I may give up on friendships but I still want to be included.
I am not spoiled or picky
When I refuse to wear certain clothing, or eat the foods you want me to, I am not being spoiled or picky. I have sensitivity issues. Sometimes I cannot tolerate certain fabrics, or clothing tags—they irritate my skin and hurt. I may not be able to eat what is put in front of me because of the smell or how the food feels in my mouth. I am not picky on purpose, I simply cannot tolerate certain things and I cannot control it.
Do not stop my stimming
“Stimming” is my way of coping. It makes me feel better, calms me down, and helps me to deal with the overwhelming, over-stimulating world around me. Stopping me from stimming is blocking my outlet. It causes me to become more anxious, which can lead to a meltdown. I am sorry if my “stims” are noisy, annoying, or embarrassing to you; it is not my intention.
I feel misunderstood
I do not try to be difficult; I actually try very hard to understand others. Others, however, do not understand me. They don’t think that I have feelings, or that I want to have friends. When I try to express myself, it is often misunderstood because I have difficulty expressing myself.
It is the simple things that are misunderstood. The inability to express themselves in a way that you can understand is an obstacle many autistic children face. These children use language and express emotions in unique and unexpected ways, but they do express themselves—if only everyone knew what to look for and knew how to understand them.