Thriving with Autism

1 in 54 babies born each year have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Autism is a neurodevelopment disorder that affects the brain in specific ways. These specific manners can range from highly functional to lower functional spectrum with social and emotional aspects of life. Autism impacts how the brain interprets social emotional inputs. I have always been curious what it is like for a child with Autism and how to best help them thrive. So, I asked a dear friend to share his story for this article. Jorden is a young adult with his first full, time job.

The following are Jorden’s 10 Things Everyone Should Know About Children with Autism:

  1. Acceptance of character traits that are exclusive to children with Autism, specifically social deficiency. “I struggle to connect and build relationships in a traditional way. I do not mean to come across as uninterested in you. I can struggle to understand your social needs.”
  2. I experience the world differently. My senses are cute and I can be overwhelmed quickly. Sounds, textures, taste, touch, and scents can be frightening and painful for me to experience. Although, I may notice details in these areas that others miss.
  3. I do want friendships like you do. Although I can spend hours without social engagement, I do want to have friendships. I may not have the language to express my thoughts or needs. I may use nonverbal communication to convey our social connection.
  4. I mostly communicate by way of behavior rather than by words. It is hard for me to put my thoughts and feelings into words. Be patient with me and learn how I can communicate best with you.
  5. Interact by a method I can understand clearly. Talk slowly and use visual aids to convey emotions and ideas.
  6. I am mostly in the present moment. I do not focus on the past and future unless I am instructed. It is hard to see and understand the grand picture; so, show me visual aids to help me make the connections.
  7. I have anxiety and do worry about a lot of things. In my early teens I began to experience a lot of anxiety and depression symptoms. I need consistency and routine to thrive. I do not understand rational reasons for changes. I just know that it is hard to accept change and be flexible.
  8. My routine is extremely important to me. I cope best with change if I learn a routine to how to cope with change. I need support from my peers and teachers to help me find ways to be a part of activities on a consistent basis.
  9. I need support to thrive in the world, even beyond school. I need help making sense of the changes in the world such as developmental changes and life transition stages. It helps to help my parents to feel that I have other support besides just them.
  10. Be positive. Do not just see what I cannot do, but what I can do. I have a lot of talents and Autism is just a part of me, not all of me. See me beyond the characteristic traits and you will find someone clever in there.

Hilary Gallegos completed her Master’s degree in Mental and Behavioral Health Counseling at Carson Newman university in 2013. She worked with numerous mental health disorders for several years at Blount Memorial Hospital. She was inspired by overcoming challenges with managing her own  mental health disorder to become a counselor. She believes treatment is specific to each person and enjoys the journey of helping others discover their strategies. Hilary is an avid gardener, mountain biker, and hiker. “These activities are what ground me and help my state of mental health by being present with nature.”

The Mental Health Association offers all services to eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin or disability.

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