With 1 in 68 children now estimated to have autism spectrum disorder, community support is critical. During May Is Better Hearing & Speech Month,
Penobscot Valley Hospital’s speech-language pathologist, Stacey White, is focusing on Autism Awareness and the support and inclusion of individuals who happen to have autism in the community.
Autism is often characterized by difficulties in social communication and social interaction and the presence of restricted, repetitive behaviors. Speech-language pathologists can help treat children with autism
. They help in areas including communication skills and social skills.
“Everyone can play a role in fostering a supportive and inclusive atmosphere for children and adults with autism, whether at school, in workplaces, in local businesses, and throughout our society,” White states.
White and her professional organization, the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (asha.org), offer these tips to enhance Autism Awareness:
Reach out. People with autism want to make social connections just like everybody else, but it might be more difficult for them. Make an effort to try to share in something the person with autism might like, engage the person in conversation, or invite them to participate in an activity with you. Try noticing something that person enjoys and comment on it, talk about something you really like too and try to find something you may have in common.
Be patient. Give the person additional time to speak and respond. Don’t try to finish the person’s sentence or thought for them.
Modify your communication. Rephrase what you say if the person doesn’t understand or respond the first time. Use gestures to help show what you mean, and also try writing or drawing your message. Go the extra mile to be a good communication partner!
Don’t make assumptions. Don’t assume you know what the person wants or what they are thinking. Ask them!
This is a great time for parents to talk to their kids about classmates or friends with autism—how they can include them, be kind, and better understand that despite some differences, they are similar in many more ways than they are different.
Stacey also adds: “Parents who have concerns about their own child should contact a professional. ASHA recommends that for parents who have questions about their child’s development, don’t delay.
The time is now to seek an evaluation. There is nothing to lose but a lot to gain if there is an issue that needs to be addressed.”
To contact Stacey White, speech-language pathologist at the PVH Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, please call 207-794-7228.