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Connecting with Autistic Children

Chris Bonnello of "Autistic Not Weird"

“I laughed when he laughed, sang when he sang, and made the same throat noises as him. I did the same when we were outside, not caring what the neighbours might think.

Because in my experience, the key to connecting with autistic children is to communicate how they do.”

– Chris Bonnello, author of Autistic Not Weird and What We Love Most About Life

I love this quote so much.

If you ever see me flapping my hands with, or getting stuck in an echolalia loop with some of my students, this is why!

Our kiddos spend a lot of the school day trying to communicate with, and fit in with, the neurotypical world around them. Lots of eye contact, expectations of “quiet hands,” and being around people who may not realize that you just want them to repeat your favorite scripted phrases back to you!

That’s why I like being a random bit of silliness in their day – especially for the autistic kids out in general education. Let’s talk in nonsensical phrases together! Let’s get stuck in stimming loops for a while! Let’s be silly and strange and do all the odd little things that make you happy, if only for a quick minute or two.

It’s a chance to say to them: I see you. I get you. And I think this part of you that you don’t get to show too often at school is pretty awesome, too. I know they can’t act like this all day, that they need to be able to sit and pay attention and finish their work and learn. But still, I love giving them that excuse to take a mental break, and just let it all out for a few minutes, with no judgment, with someone whose brain lives for the same bits of weirdness that theirs does!

That being said, we do have a lot of awesome teachers and paras at our school who are pretty fantastic with our autistic students, even though they don’t have autism themselves. They work so hard to get inside their students’ heads, so they can support them the best that they can. They’re all pretty great, and I know our autistic students love them, too.

Even though, if you think about it, these same students are probably looking at their neurotypical teachers and classmates and thinking, “You’re all so strange! With all your, socializing and eye contact and quiet hands! I wonder why you do all those weird little things you do.”

Source: Autistic Not Weird – Facebook


Published by Adriana Lebrón White

Autistic school librarian and former special education teacher. MA Ed in Special Education and MLIS with a focus on Youth Services and Storytelling.

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