Thursday 31 August 2017

Five everyday places to understand autistic kids and their families

Five places you can show some understanding that makes a difference - our autistic son in a shop car park

My kids and my family don't always act as you would expect.  Sometimes what we do seems odd or weird.  Like David was at the beach this summer, his actions can seem disruptive, but they are often just misunderstood.  Here's a few more places that people can make a difference to my kids' day by just showing some understanding.

#1. In a restaurant
If you work or are a patron in a restaurant, you might come across a family like mine. My kids can behave differently to other customers. For a start, they may not be fascinated by the quality of the food - David is more likely to eat the free bread in the bread basket than any meal in front of him.  He might just spend time playing on an iPad.  It might seem rude at first but it is his way of dealing with stressful situations.

As a waiter, maître d’or customer it would be great if you could understand that their different behaviour is not a criticism of the food, you, the restaurant or even bad behaviour and disrespect. We went to a restaurant in Les Bossons this week, and the friendly waiter smiled and serviced our iPad playing son beautifully. He got it - we are just family trying their best to enjoy a meal out together.

#2. In a school
Most mainstream schools have children with additional needs in them.  In fact, most classes will have at least one child in them with what's called an EHCP or a Statement of Special Educational Needs. Others in the same class can need extra educational or emotional support that is delivered by the school.

The school may have a counselling service to offer – teachers can even take an online school counselor degree to understand how to help. It’s essential for their personal growth and for the school performance that kids like mine and many others can receive social attention when they need it most. If you are visiting a school or perhaps even picking up your kids, it would be great if you could have some understanding that some actions of the other kids aren't 'bad' and it's perhaps them just trying to cope. After all they've been jumping through hoops they don't understand all day.

Five places you can show some understanding that makes a difference

#3. In a shop
Sometimes it's the tiniest of things that make life for a family like mine easier.  It's ok if my son needs to open the pack of chocolate buttons before we get to the till in a shop.  He doesn't understand that if he has something in his hand he can't eat it.  To him it's like a cruel trick.  He's dealing with so much in the shop already; the cold freezer, loud tannoy and till and bright lights are sending his senses into overload. Some understanding for his squeals, jumps and chocolate eating will help us get through the shop, through the car park and back home safely.

I once saw an article about a teenager who worked in a shop and spotted an elderly gentleman and decided to help him carry his shopping bag back home. The friendly teen accompanied the 95-year-old man home, holding his hand on one side and his carrier bag in the other. This spontaneous act of kindness was prompted by the young man worrying about the elderly gentleman. It was a beautiful example of human nature, but it needn't be that far to help.

People with autism can need a bit more time to respond to information. It may take more time to count out money or work through the chip and pin machine.  If you are working at the shop or in the queue, it's ok the wait sometimes, we really appreciate it.

Five places you can show some understanding that makes a difference - our autistic son in the playground

#4. At the playground
My kids may not play the same as the other kids.  David loves the spinner and will be on it for hours if we let him.  However, he doesn't understand when he is approached by another child that they may wish a turn.  You'll probably see me standing by to help him 'share' equipment but if it takes him a few minutes to get a response that's expected, don't worry, he is trying his best.

And if he looks a bit big for the baby swing.. he is.  But it's ok too.  We've had some beautiful moments in the playground, and all of them founded on understanding, a lack of prejudice and simple kindness.

#5. At a hairdressing salon
Hairdressers have a hard job to cut hair for a variety of people. Young children – autistic or not – do require special care as they rarely have the patience to sit quietly through an entire cut.  We've tried everything for David - we even went to a place where the kids had their haircuts done whilst sitting in seats shaped like cars.  But the whole experience can be too much.

Me Too and Co offer haircuts for kids with additional needs in their play room - it's no surprise it's always busy.  This Irish hairdresser understands the importance of a peaceful spot for his autistic clients.  He doesn’t hesitate to follow a teen with autism into the car to finish the haircut. The result? No drama and a satisfied family.

The other customers may think it a little odd but there's no need to. This hairdresser going the extra mile could make someone’s day a little smoother.  This kind of business would get my business all the time.

This is just a few places, but truth is we find doing many simple daily things a challenge. Many families and people do and a bit of understanding or support for whatever their potential circumstance could make a big difference to their day.

So wherever you are going to today, if someone is acting a little unusual or taking a bit more time than you would like to do something, take a breath, they may just be coping and hoping you'll understand. xxx


  1. I was nodding along to each of these lovely. Often it's just simple kindness that makes the difference to us. Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime 🎉

    1. I know but I totally get it. We are all so busy that there doesn't seem time for patience and understanding.

  2. I have five children diagnosed and not but each is unique. I have much more understanding thanks to having a bigger family and promote individualism. Who wants to be the same as anyone else? Celebrate our differences

  3. This is a really interesting list especially to myself who doesn't know that much about autism, my children come home and tell me lots about it though as their school is really good at talking to the children about it and ensuring all children are included in everything. #kcacols

    1. That's really great to hear. Thanks for reading and commenting. :-)

  4. I never judge a child if they act a different way to my kids, as you just never know. This is such a great post and more people need to read it and understand! #KCACOLS

  5. We should all be less judgemental and more considerate of one another's needs.
    Thanks for linking this post up to #KCACOLS Come back soon.

  6. What a brilliant piece. I agree that even just in general having patience and understanding with each other is so important. If we look hard enough, everyone is a little different in their own way and it doesn't take much to check our attitudes and behavior towards the way others may be taking in a situation. Thank you for sharing with the #DreamTeam xx

  7. It's so great for you to share posts like this - it's easy enough to judge behaviours based on what our children would do or how they'd react or we'd react. That's all we know, right? But everyone's different - each child is an individual and sees the world through their own eyes. We need to remember this, and show understand and support, rather than judgement and impatience. Thank so much for linking up with #KCACOLS. Hope to see you again next time!

  8. A lovely post, a little kindness, whatever the situation goes a long way :) #KCACOLS

  9. I often think that's it's not autism itself that's the problem. It's other people. I've had so many playground nightmares with my son because he's screaming with delight and making his special noises. He gets stared at and moved away from by kids and parents. Hairdressers? We gave up on that. Too sensory for him and it needs a VERY understanding hairdresser/barber to be able to cut his hair while he's moving about.I've had shopkeepers speak to him as if he's a piece of poo and if I had a penny for every-time he's been accused of being a 'naughty child', I'd be rich. Life would be better for autistic kids (and adults) if people took the time to learn about autism. We need kindness and understanding - not hatred and hostility. X

  10. I remember before my third son and his diagnosis - I used to be a silent tutter now of course, I know so much more and know better! Our hairdresser comes to our house!


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