Last week, I had the honour of representing World Moms Network at the Geneva Centre for Autism 2016 Symposium, held in Toronto. Over the course of three days, I reconnected with friends in the autism community and made some new ones, I saw an act by an autistic stand-up comic who was absolutely hilarious, and I learned a lot of things that gave me insights into my own autistic son.
In due course, I will be sharing some of this information with the World Moms community. For now, I offer you ten insights from the presenters:
1. Mental health in people with autism is largely overlooked: autistic youth are almost four times more likely to experience emotional problems than their neurotypical peers, and many of these problems are undiagnosed and under-treated.
2. Our ability to make social connections depends in part on genetics and hormones. About two hundred chromosomes are related to our ability to make social connections.
3. Language is not about words. It is about seeking social connections. People with autism need to acquire language, but more importantly, they need to develop the social motivation to use it.
4. Kids with differences like autism tend to process social stimuli in non-social areas of the brain. As a result, interactions with autistic people can seem somewhat clinical.
5. People with autism should be allowed to make eye contact on their own terms. Being forced to make eye contact can create anxiety and distract them from their efforts to communicate.
6. Just because someone is unable to speak, that doesn’t mean they have nothing to say. When interacting with someone on the spectrum, we need to look for other ways they might be communicating.
7. Don’t just tolerate the differences of autistic brains, embrace them. People with autism have very distinct neurological wiring that make them think in ways that neurotypical people cannot relate to.
8. People with autism tend to process small changes similar to how typical people process major changes, like the loss of a job or a loved one. This can make a neurotypical person’s average day like a minefield of trauma for someone with autism.
9. People with autism learn best visually. Their brains are not wired for the kind of auditory learning that is found in most regular classrooms.
10. The hidden curriculum consists of unwritten rules that are not directly taught but everyone knows. Violation of these rules can make you a social outcast. People with autism do not pick up hidden curriculum items from their environment like everybody else. They have to be taught.
Are you the parent of a child with special needs? What little snippets have you learned on your parenting journey?
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.
Where in the world do you live? And, are you from there?
I live in Scotland in North Berwick, a seaside town near Edinburgh which is Scotland’s capital city. I’m not from the area but it’s home. I was born in England but lived in various places as a child, including Canada and Switzerland. I moved to Scotland when I was 12 as my mother is part Scottish.
What language(s) do you speak?
English and French
When did you first become a mother (year/age)?
1994, aged 31
Are you a stay-at-home mom or do you work?
Both! I work from home but I try to fit work around my family (the work is voluntary and I am the vice president of two charities teaching Heartfulness meditation and relaxation which is free and open to all).
Why do you blog/write?
I feel that it’s a great way to share ideas and inspiration. We are social beings and writing is one of the greatest ways to communicate with each other. I particularly like the fact that it has the potential to unite us, although the converse is also possible! It can help us to understand that, no matter where we live, all human beings have much more in common than we realise.
What makes you unique as a mother?
I suppose I’m unique as a mother to my own children, which makes all mothers unique.
It’s a difficult question! Perhaps it’s the fact that I have strived to make sure that I see my children (and other children) as unique individuals who are here to experience their own path through life. I try hard not to project any of my beliefs, wishes and aspirations onto my children so they can be completely free to be themselves.
What do you view as the challenges of raising a child in today’s world?
Finding a good balance between protecting your child and helping them to stand on their own two feet is a challenge. There is often a continuous stream of bad news in our press as well as much uncertainty and change in the World which can cause fear, especially in children and teenagers.
We need to help our children to be confident, resilient, and to value themselves and their place in the World so they can feel hopeful about their future. It’s also a challenge to help them accept themselves as they are, given the pressures to conform since society usually defines us by how we look and what we do, rather than who we are.
I work in schools teaching relaxation/meditation and it is clear that mental health problems are increasing dramatically in young people and teenagers due to stress, and fear and uncertainty about their future. It can be very difficult for parents to spot the signs and to help their children, especially if they themselves are under a lot of stress.
How did you find World Moms Blog?
I was introduced to WMB by Purnima Ramakrishnan
These interview answers were provided by Judith Nelson for World Moms Blog. Photo credit: Judith Nelson.