If you don’t already know, I have a child who is Autistic. I worried how to explain what Autism was and what it meant to him. Thankfully, he’s very high functioning and is more similar to those who were previously diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. He’s very bright, but not skilled socially and has difficulty with motor planning and executive functioning. Executive functioning helps a person:
- Manage time
- Pay attention
- Switch focus
- Plan and organize
- Remember details
- Avoid saying or doing the wrong thing
- Do things based on your experience
Last year, my son (who was 10) overheard me discussing him and using the word Autistic with someone on the phone. After I was through he began asking questions about my conversation and what being Autistic was. Thankfully, I was prepared for this. A fellow mama with an autistic son recommended a book for me to use to help explain Autism to our son. It’s a workbook for kids and parents to use together:
I explained that people with autism have a different “operating system” than other people. For example, there are basically two operating systems for computers, PC and Mac. Like computers, people with autism have a different operating system in their brain.
My son totally understood this and didn’t feel bad or inferior about it – it helped him know that his brain’s operating system was just different and required different instructions than a “typical” kid’s operating system. I’ve also used this example and explanation to friends, family and others who don’t know much about autism. They usually don’t want the nitty gritty, but do want a way to understand.
As Autism touches so many families, I hope this helps in understanding and functions as a way to explain to family, friends, siblings and those kids who are Autistic in a gentle understandable way what Autism is.
P.S. Just a note that there are many different shades of Autism, everything from high functioning to those who can’t speak.