The number of kids with autism has increased more than 1,000 percent during the last 20 years, and it's likely that your child will know at least one classmate with the disorder. Researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center say that learning to communicate with these children can help the child with autism thrive and be rewarding to your child. Andrea Witwer, Ph.D., the program director of the School-Aged Autism and Developmental Clinic at Ohio State's Nisonger Center, explains the ABCs of interacting with a classmate who has autism:
A: Always be patient. Children with autism may get stuck on a topic or game. Teach your child to take cues from his friend. While it's OK to gently encourage the child to move away from the activity, your child should be willing to continue if her friend with autism doesn't want to change. Show your child how to delicately suggest a way to play the same game in a slightly different way.
B: Be observant. Encourage your child to get to know her classmate and understand the types of activities he most enjoys. When children with autism are involved in structured activities, it is a safe and positive experience.
C. Communicate in different ways.
Many times children with autism have different ways of communicating. If he gets upset, a child with autism may use expressions or sounds instead of verbalizing his emotions. Teach your child to be aware of how his friend communicates; be open to different forms of interaction.