The autism community has changed in a great number of ways over the past 23 years (the age of my son). For example, when Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society started delivering our first Autism Demystification program in 2002 we were not “permitted” to use the word autism in the Puppet Program. But, by the time we had provided the program to some 50,000 children in BC, educators started to request we use the word autism in the Puppet Program (and by then our Simulation Game Program as well). Over the years, we stopped using the terms such as “stim” and started using “regulation”. We stopped using tantrums or meltdowns and starting using “dysregulated” and we stopped using “perseveration” and starting using “affinities” instead.
However, I am sad to say that some things have not changed enough. We are still not honouring the needs of children with autism by letting them guide our practices enough. We are not yet seeing individuals with autism as valuable contributing members of society in our workplaces enough. And we are still not demystifying our communities enough.
Autism Demystification is one of the keys to raising children with autism. We require our communities to understand generally what autism is (and is not) in order to create truly inclusive communities. But we also need more. We need our communities to not only understand and accept, but also to empathize with individuals on the autism spectrum. That is why the Friend 2 Friend Autism Demystification model and programs work to provide general information about autism while NEVER singling out or identifying any one individual. Instead, we use engaging tools to model, label, explain and normalize common characteristics associated with autism. The processes of modeling, labeling, explaining and normalizing provides information about autism but much more, it provides emotional perspective taking enabling participates to empathize with individuals with autism. And as we all know empathy is the first step to friendships.
Have you been demystified? Let us know what you think?