Changing communication styles and respecting differences improves interactions.
- Individuals with autism have different abilities.
- We can do more as a community to increase our awareness and knowledge of autism.
- We can promote inclusivity as a society to make things more accessible for people with autism.
Individuals with autism have all kinds of abilities, strengths, and skills to offer. Many individuals also encounter some challenges with communication, social interaction, and sensory processing. These challenges can make it difficult to navigate in society—in stores, in groups, and following expected behaviors. We can do more as a community by increasing our awareness of the challenges individuals with autism and their families may face and making changes to our behaviors to engage better through inclusivity.
For me, inclusivity and access go together. When we are inclusive, we are looking at making things accessible for all. How inclusive we are and what that level of access is will be different for all communities, organizations, groups, and families that want to increase inclusivity.
Here are 10 ways to promote inclusivity for individuals with autism:
- Communication: Many individuals with autism have difficulty with communication. This can look different for all individuals. Speaking in a way that allows the person we are communicating with to better understand and interact with us is key. Using gestures during communication that go along with what we are saying may aid in communicating with those with autism.
- Signage: Having signs that have both written words and pictures can help those with autism better understand the message the sign is relaying.
- Greetings: Greetings can look very different across cultures. Considering how we are greeting others and what their level of comfort may be is important. For example, some may smile, wave, shake hands, or say “hello.” Simply asking about how an individual or family greets helps us better understand how we all greet differently.
- Personal Space: Some individuals with autism struggle to understand personal space boundaries. Knowing this can help us to understand that an interaction with an individual with autism is not intended to be offensive, but simply something they may still be learning and working on. We can kindly ask the individual to take a step back or let them know that we are going to take a step back. Communicating this increases respect for the individual.
- Social Interaction: This goes together with communication. We all communicate and interact differently. Recognizing that some people with autism may not make eye contact or may make brief eye contact can help us to better interact with those with autism.
- Training: Investing time and effort for yourself, staff, group, or family on how to engage more and in different ways with individuals with autism helps to promote inclusivity, spread awareness, and increase acceptance of differences. We offer a variety of trainings to assist.
- Open Mind: Keeping an open mind in how we communicate or maybe a request from a customer or client that is within reason and feasible for your business can provide an open door to start a conversation or look into what we can shift to increase inclusivity and accessibility.
- Curiosity: Maintaining a curious stance and asking questions to learn and make modifications, while remaining respectful is crucial. This allows us to become more knowledgeable about how we can be inclusive of individuals with autism or their families.
- Patience: Having patience when engaging with someone with autism can give them the time and space they need to communicate, interact, and access what it is they need. For example, give the individual time to respond after saying something or asking a question. Be mindful of only asking one question at a time, to allow the individual time to process and respond. Be patient and be kind. It can make someone’s day.
- Non-Judgmental: It can be hard to be non-judgmental, but it is something we need to be mindful of and actively demonstrate so that we can be more inclusive. Being curious, respectful, kind, and patient, while trying to help or engage with an individual with autism is a step towards acceptance and promoting inclusivity.
We are in this world together. Let’s promote inclusivity for those with different skills and abilities.