Quiet and Withdrawn

When considering the loud, disruptive, or explosive behavior challenges that arise with more extroverted people with autism, we might think we would prefer our friends with autism lean more to the sedate or withdrawn side of the spectrum. But, in fact, individuals who are quiet or withdrawn also face significant challenges.

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A group of teachers and parents talking about the notable differences in the general demeanor of youngsters with autism concurred that quieter youngsters seem to require less intense minute-to-minute monitoring and care. But the group recognized, among others, these challenging issues:
1. Communication. Some individuals with autism are non-verbal, but still find ways to communicate their needs or opinions. But some are non-communicative, meaning they appear to make few attempts to communicate with other people. Whether they are disinterested or ill-equipped to communicate, our friends deserve our efforts to foster communication.
2. Interaction. Some of our more less rowdy friends with autism are withdrawn and somewhat removed from the world around them. It can be challenging to engage them and nurture personal relationships.
3. Behavior issues. Sometimes “quietness’ is mistaken for “goodness.” A quiet student might get lost in the shuffle, especially if there are more intense and disruptive students in the class. A youngster who sits quietly might be praised for being “good” in class or at home. In actuality, our quiet friends with autism may actually require very intense intervention to keep them from just fading off into the distance.
4. Self-reliance. No proof on this theory, but I’m wondering if our quiet, less active friends with autism fall into a pattern of learned helplessness. It seems to me that we are quick to jump in and help our friends with autism who are more quiet – those who rarely initiate action. For example, some individuals tend to just sit at home or at school until specifically told to stand up and move. It may be that they are not in touch with people or events happening right in front of their eyes.

These are just a few of the issues that arise from individuals with autism who are very quiet and withdrawn. In the podcast “Rowdy and Disruptive,” we discussed the pros and cons of personalities on the other side of the fence. We hope you will join the conversation. Feel free to share your thoughts about the challenges of rowdy or quiet demeanors. Just click on the comments button or send an e-mail to talk@FAQautism.com.

NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At FAQautism.com we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. Feel free to send me an email with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. Send email to talk@FAQautism.com And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism. http://FAQautism.com

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