We tend to think of individuals with autism as being somewhat withdrawn and reluctant to interact with other people. But at the very heart of autism is inconsistency across the spectrum. While some people with autism are, indeed, disconnected, others might be very sociable.
Contrary to the common stereotype, the range of social interaction in autism is very broad. Take a look at the list below to see the diversity.
1. At one end of the spectrum of autism, we find individuals who are withdrawn, lethargic, and non-responsive.
2. Others may be disconnected, only reaching out to others for personal needs. They may treat the other person as an object or a machine that will feed them, but they will make a connection.
3. Some people with autism tolerate the presence of others. They may not interact or talk, but they do seem to endure the presence of other people.
4. At mid-spectrum we find individuals with autism who interact quite appropriately with family, friends, and even strangers.
5. Some individuals with autism are easily over-stimulated. They can become very excited in the presence of other people, causing them to kick their legs, flap their hands, or rock vigorously. Some people might laugh or talk uncontrollably, or they may bite their own hand in their excitement. Their response to other people is certainly a contrast to the stereotypical person with autism who shuns social contact.
6. Obsessive interest in people or over-friendly behavior is also found in the spectrum of autism. Although some people with autism might shun social contact, others crave interaction.
7. I have some friends with autism who are very aggressive – they pull hair, bite, or hit anyone who comes within reaching distance. Some display explosive behavior – screaming loudly, throwing or tearing items, or running around the room in the presence of other people. Some aggressive behavior may, of course, just be a result of excitement or the lack of ability to communicate to people in more appropriate ways.
TIP FOR THE DAY: The range of social interaction in autism is vast. No matter where your friends with autism fall on this spectrum, spend time with them, giving them opportunities to make personal connections on their own terms.
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 a confidential email at talk@FAQautism.com with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. 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