Think about a time when you sat on the playground, waiting for someone to invite you to play. Do you remember who reached for your hand? Do you remember who made you feel seen? Who was your ally?
In this blog, we’ll look at the following questions:
- What does it mean to be an ally for autistic people?
- How can you support autistic individuals to be their true selves and reduce the need for masking?
- How can you support and accept non-harmful stimming behaviors in autistic people?
- Why is respecting personal space important for autistic people?
- What is identity-first language, and why is it important to adopt it when referring to autistic people?
- Why should you avoid using functional labels when discussing autism, and how can it help you become a better ally?
- Why is it important to read about and learn from autistic people’s experiences?
- What are some ways to foster inclusive environments for autistic people?
What Does It Mean to be an Ally for Autistic People?
Being an ally to autistic people can come in many forms. Whether listening to someone’s experience, educating yourself on the disability, or sharing in someone’s burden, you stand alongside those with autism. Amplifying your belief in something, even if it doesn’t affect you directly, is being a true ally.
How Can You Support Autistic Individuals to be Their True Selves and Reduce the Need for Masking?
You may ask, “apart from being an ally, how can I support people with autism directly”?
Here are some helpful tools:
- Address them like you would anyone else
- Accept them for who they are
- Be inclusive and welcoming
- Create a safe and comforting environment
- Allow normalization for stimming
- Be a companion
Autistic people may often “mask” in front of others, where they perform a certain way or suppress themselves to fit in. Supporting autistic people where they’re at and not trying to change who they are will reduce their need to “mask,”; allowing their true identity to shine.
How Can You Support and Accept Non-Harmful Stimming Behaviors in Autistic People?
An autistic person may stimulate, or stim, to regulate strong emotions such as anger, anxiety, excitement, or fear. Stimming can present itself in many physical movements, such as hand flapping, rocking, spinning, finger flicking, or jumping.
Many individuals engage in self-stimulatory behavior to regulate. Do you engage in foot tapping or hair twirling? Have you seen kids jump up and down and flap their arms when excited? We all have regulatory needs expressed through body movements.
Movements such as these are typically harmless and necessary for sensory regulation, so allowing an autistic person to stim creates an accepting environment.
Stimming is a common need for those with autism, so take note to support these movements and normalize them.
Why is Respecting Personal Space Important for Autistic People?
Respecting personal space is important for a multitude of reasons. If placed in an overwhelming environment, an autistic person may experience sensory overload.
To prevent stress or other harmful effects, respect one’s boundaries by:
- Refraining from physical touch, as many autistic people do not like to be touched, even by family.
- Create a quiet and calm space, to avoid sensory overload.
- Give grace with lack of eye contact, for eye contact can cause discomfort for someone with autism. Presume competence and trust autistic individuals hear what you are saying without requiring eye-contact. This shows respect and honors unique needs.
What Is Identity-First Language, and Why Is It Important to Adopt It When Referring to Autistic People?
Identify-first language is a minor change that can make a significant difference. This is a simple language reframe: such as using “autistic person” versus “person with autism.” By using more affirmative language, that autism isn’t something to distance from, we can make autistic people feel more comfortable and accepted.
Why Should You Avoid Using Functional Labels When Discussing Autism, and How Can It Help You Become a Better Ally?
A functional label is a language choice that stereotypes someone by their extent of function. For instance, “low functioning” may make one seem incapable, while “high functioning” may lead to a lack of attentive care (due to their strong management skills).
By emphasizing someone’s level of function and identifying them as such, you’re creating a damaging stigma. To be an ally, you can address someone as an “autistic child” or “autistic person,”; acknowledging what makes them unique without focusing on incorrect stereotypes regarding skills.
Why Is It Important to Read About and Learn from Autistic People’s Experiences?
Understanding autism and paying special attention to people’s experiences greatly benefits the autistic community. This educates the public and validates a person’s experience. This type of awareness can not only help autistic people feel acknowledged but also helps family members or caregivers of those with autism feel seen as well.
Learning about experiences can also amplify autistic voices. The autistic community has expressed that the month of April, previously known as “Autism Awareness Month,” has flooded social media with inaccurate and offensive representations of autism. April has since been renamed “Autism Acceptance Month,” which expresses support towards autism and those who have it. Celebrating this recognition, and calling it by its requested name, is a sense of allyship.
What Are Some Ways to Foster Inclusive Environments for Autistic People?
Taking the initiative to create inclusive environments will make all parties feel valued, safe, and open to collaboration. Here are some ways to integrate that today:
- Communicate directly and honestly
- Educate others
- Recognize strengths over weaknesses
- Be socially inclusive
- Accept autistic people as individuals
Accept differences. Educate yourself. Make a change. This is how we can progress as a unified group.
Ally Pediatric is Your Ally in ABA Therapy
Everyone needs an ally. With a collaborative and individualized approach, Ally Pediatric Therapy can help you grow into the person you are meant to be.
Connect with us today to get plugged into a variety of our customized and care-centered resources.