To Parents of Nonverbal Autistic Children:

I saw a post the other day titled “If I Get Dementia”. It was written by someone who worked with dementia patients for many years and really saw their humanity, first and foremost. The list she made had a lot of similarities to things I’ve told other parents with #nonverbal #Autistic children, so I was inspired to create my own list:

  • If your child is not able to speak or has trouble speaking, that doesn’t mean they’re not intelligent. They’re just having trouble with speaking. Find other ways to help them communicate (PECS, AAC). And pay attention to their gestures, words, and expressions - they’re probably communicating a lot already.
  • They don’t want to always be treated like a baby. Talk to them like the age that they are, even if they can’t respond.
  • Give them toys, books, and school lessons that are age-appropriate. Their minds are often way ahead of their control over their bodies and voices.
  • Help them find out what things they enjoy and then help them do those things often. Just as you would with any child.
  • If they become agitated, take the time to figure out what is bothering them. They’re not spoiled or “being difficult”.
  • If they hum, sing, or repeat random words or phrases a lot or if they move hands and arms in a pattern, they are helping calm their own nervous system, since it sometimes doesn’t do this on its own. People who claim to be “experts” have named this “stimming”, to make it sound scary and bad, but it is just your child, taking care of himself/herself. Please do not make them stop.
  • Realize that a lot of so-called ‘Autism Experts’ don’t know your child very well. You do! If experts tell you your child is ‘unteachable’ or ‘severe’, it’s because they don’t understand yet that nonverbals have a lot to offer despite their verbal troubles. Yes, even doctors, teachers, and PhDs. Believe in your child anyway!! No matter what is said about them. You’re not delusional. You’re the parent. Keep in mind that many nonverbal Autistic adults currently have great careers as advocates, scientists, and writers. Most Autistics who suceed as adults have parents who believed in them when no one else did.
  • Realize that if you constantly seek “treatments” and “cures” for your child, you are constantly telling them you think there’s something wrong with them, and that is hurtful to their self-esteem and very damaging in the long run.
  • Treat your child the way that you would want to be treated.
  • Appreciate their strengths. Don’t just focus on their weaknesses. They have a lot of talents.
  • Instead of trying to teach them to “act normal”, teach society to accept them as they are. Once society gets used to who Autistics are, they will be better able to fit in anywhere. The problem is with society’s view of your child, not with your child.
  • Don’t talk about them as if they’re not in the room. They can hear and understand everything. Many even have very sensitive hearing.
  • Don’t get frustrated if they mix up words, if they do speak. It’s not their fault. Their brain is a little different than yours.
  • Make sure they always have their favorite music accessible to them and play it often.
  • Make sure that there are plenty of snacks around the house for them, and that they eat on a very regular schedule. If they get hungry, they might get upset, and have trouble explaining what they need.
  • Don’t exclude them from parties and family gatherings, but bring them to a quiet place or to a place where they can run around, every hour or so, so they don’t get overwhelmed while there. And bring along their iPad, squishy toys, and headphones as needed.
  • Know that your child may love to get tickles, hugs, and kisses. Or they may get overwhelmed by them. Or it may be one way one day and another the next. If you pay attention, you’ll know which they prefer.
  • Remember that your child is first and foremost a person who deserves your respect, kindness, and love.
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