My most challenged autistic brother is thirty-two. Teaching him and celebrating his accomplishments is an absolute blast!! Sometimes, however, I'm challenged to keep it age appropriate. My brother struggles with words and--let's be honest!--behaves somewhat strangely! So it can be tempting to assume he doesn't understand when we are having fast moving adult conversation. I know better, but sometimes I forget. My mom (global autism expert Lynette Louise aka The Brain Broad) has given me a way to always remember. "Act as if..." he understands, and when he has a hard time showing me that he did--perhaps he isn't doing what was requested-- "simplify" by pointing out that he seems to be having trouble so why don't I break it down and make it a little bit easier. When I "Act as if..." I don't risk offending him, and when I "simplify', I offer him (and me!) an opportunity to understand each step.
This trick has helped me everywhere in my world!! When I see an unkind comment on one of my articles, I remember, "Act as if, then simplify." I then "Act as if" the commenter was coming from their own place of kindness (perhaps my opinion seems cruel to them and they feel it is important to respond in kind) and "simplify" my intention by breaking it down. When my son is hurt by something one of his peers said, I remind him "Act as if" the friend was meaning something kind, or was reacting to an emotion all their own, and then "simplify" by explaining why it hurt. Most of the time when we do this (and let go of judgement!) we will be gifted with surprising and important learning's!
This trick isn't going to always change the intentions of others, sometimes when we "Act as if" another meant kindness, we are plain and simply wrong. But so? By acting as if, we have made the experience much nicer for ourselves and still offered our own vision, but likely with more kindness and clarity than we would have had we chosen to "fight back". And, best of all, most often we would have been right! In our autism filled world, many people have a difficult time with social cues and so reactions come from all kinds of curious and interesting places! This was of course true before autism numbers climbed as high as they are now, but with autism so prevalent we have a wonderful opportunity to really learn this lesson!
Do this with your autistic loved ones, "Act as if..." they are understanding you, loving you, hoping to learn, and then "simplify" when they are struggling to show it.
And do this for yourself! The next time you feel the judgments of others burning your skin, "Act as if..." they are actually feeling a desperate desire to know how to feel or what to do, and "simplify" by making eye contact and offering a suggestion.
Hugs, Smiles and Love!!!!!