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Tips for people working/living with young autistic children

If you’re working with autistic children, and they’re not doing the puzzles you give them and not following instructions, here’s some tips from an actual autistic person, which feature tips I got, things that were good/bad about them, and things I wish had been used for me when I was a wee kid.

  1. Autistic kids are still kids, they just have some other traits. I’m guessing you know this, but just in case, remember that they are still kids. They’re still going to want to play, and do interesting things. It’s just that how they play is different, and it might not look like play to you, but it is to us.
  2. If your kid’s not interested in something, they won’t do it. If you want an autistic kid to play with a puzzle, then make it worth their while. Give them a story line that they like, or give them an incentive to beat it.
  3. If stimming is a problem, then YOU are going to have to adapt. DO NOT expect an autistic child to not stim. That’s like asking someone to not breathe; i.e. they’ll be successful for a few seconds, and then their instincts will kick in and they’ll just HAVE to.
  4. If stimming is a problem, then YOU are going to have to adapt. I cannot stress this enough. YOU will have to adapt to stimming, not them adapting to not stimming. Remember that it’s instinctive for us to stim, and that even if you “train it out of us”, it WILL recur later in life, when they are not so able to be forcibly restrained until it stops. Just put up with the stimming, because if you don’t all you will accomplish is an upset autistic person with emotional trauma.
  5. The only time you should use “Quiet Hands” is when the child is in immediate physical danger. Seriously, unless they are going to spill a jar of sulphuric acid, don’t restrain them.

If you want a stimming child to stop stimming, give up. It won’t happen. I’ve been through 16 years of parents holding my head and arms against my body, I’ve been through days on end when I have literally had bandages strapped over my eyes because of eye movement stims, and in all that time, the best method for getting me to not stim was just by giving me something interesting when I was stimming, and I would stop so that I could play with it.

*******

I know this probably wasn’t what you wanted, but it’s the only thing that I can truthfully say.

Forcing an autistic person to not stim is a horrible thing to do, and it is always detrimental long-term.

*******

— Sam

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