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Letting your autistic child be themself vs. helping them "fit in"...

So, this probably won't come off how I mean it to sound, but how much do you intervene when teaching your autistic child what is socially acceptable and what's not?

I'm probably overthinking this (I usually do) and I've posted here before that my son has been diagnosed with a very mild form of autism and I often have trouble deciding what makes him "autistic" vs. what makes him a normal 5 year old but today he did something that got me thinking.

He drew a picture on a large sheet of paper then asked me to clip it to the front of his tshirt. I did, but then he wanted to wear it when we went shopping. I hesitated, because seeing a child with a large piece of paper clipped to his shirt is odd, but then decided whatever, he's 5. He got lots of stares and awkward smiles but I didn't care. HE'S 5!

But then I started thinking, let's say he doesn't outgrow this. Let's say someday he's a teenager and wants to do this and doesn't realize its "odd". Do I tell him it is? Do I help him "fit in" or always let him be himself? I don't mean I want to hinder him from being himself but, as parents, are we supposed to help them learn these things?

I know this is not an issue now, but how much do you step in to teach your autistic child about being themselves but also avoid the stares, etc. Or should you not care at all? Again, I don't want to take away who he is for the sake of society but feel like if I COULD (someday) help him to understand, I should?

This probably sounds worse than I mean it to lol, but hopefully someone understands what I mean?

Answer Question

Asked by maecntpntz219 at 11:02 PM on Dec. 18, 2013 in Special Needs

Level 32 (52,578 Credits)
Answers (12)
  • I'd say if the stares don't bother him - at any age- then he's fine and I wouldn't worry about it

    Answer by Nimue930 at 11:16 PM on Dec. 18, 2013

  • I know exactly what you are saying. My Aspie is 19 now. He had social problems through out all of elementary and middle school. Things got a little better in high school, but not a lot. He is in college now, and he still isn't very social, but he says he has friends. He had NO friends in elementary and middle school, and very few in high school. He was badly teased and ostracized in school. I had to stop him from riding the bus because the teasing was so bad. He gained a little respect  from the high school kids because he is an AMAZING saxophone player, and math is easy for him, so kids wanted his help. His superpowers are music and math. My son really didn't care that he didn't have friends. But the teasing got to him. I did talk to him about why the kids were teasing him. Didn't change his behavior.


    Answer by musicmaker at 11:44 PM on Dec. 18, 2013

  • Take your cues from your son. If it seems he is bothered by how people treat him, then tell him why. He can decide if he wants to fit in, or be his unique self. Personally, I feel our special kids need to learn how to socialize. Later in life he is going to have to know how to interact with people. It will be very hard to get or keep a job if you don't understand that you can't tell your boss what you really think of them. ETC... So I have had many many talks with my son about what is socially acceptable in our society. I explain it to him like he is from Mars and he needs to learn about these creatures called humans. This is actually how Temple Grandin says she feels. It seems to work for my son.


    Answer by musicmaker at 11:53 PM on Dec. 18, 2013

  • I'm not autistic, and I don't have an autistic child. But I've done a lot of thinking about this because I'm blind, raising a sighted child, and I don't want my worries about people's views of my parenting skills to rub off on my kid. You know, being paranoid about the way she's dressed because I don't like people to think I can't match her clothes. I think it comes down to, are you really worried about the stares affecting your child, or worried about him getting teased, or are you secretly nervus about your image? Which is okay to admit. It happens. Admitting it will help you know where to draw the line. If you genuinely worry about your kid, then it might be time to intervene. If you aren't genuinely concerned, then leave it alone. Let him wear a picture pinned to his shirt or go out in mismatched clothes or spin in the grocery store or whatever. He's five. (cont.)

    Answer by Ballad at 11:58 PM on Dec. 18, 2013

  • My mom was worried about image, a lot. So much so that she didn't want me to "look blind" ever. When I started to rock, as many small blind children will do as a habit because they like the motion and they don't know that other children don't often soothe that way, she would pin the back of my shirt to my chair to curb the habit. When I learned to eat, she pinned the sleeve of my left hand to the left knee of my pants till I learned not to touch my plate with my left hand. To this day, I don't need to reach into my food with my left hand in order to eat neatly. There were a lot of other strict methods which made my life difficult as a child, but I can now carry myself well in a sighted world where first impressions make a big difference. Maybe my ability to be myself was curtailed too much. Would I do the same, I don't know. As harshly, no way. But fitting in is important, definitely, to the extent it is possible.

    Answer by Ballad at 12:05 AM on Dec. 19, 2013

  • I have a daughter who has Down Syndrome and absolutely no inhibitions (LOL)! What I've been doing with her is letting her be herself but at the same time trying to gently ease her into what is socially acceptable. It is going to take a long, long time but we're making progress.

    Answer by goldpandora at 4:12 AM on Dec. 19, 2013

  • My dev. delayed son tends to talk loud & repeats himself a lot. I believe the repeating himself part comes from years of speech therapy when he was told to parrot back what was being said. When we are in public, I do tend to tell him not to be quite so loud. I think there is a fine line of wanting to help them & not hindering their self expression. Take cues from him as he gets older. And even if you make a mistake (we all do), that's OK too. For what it's worth, I've seen little girls dressed up like fairies at the store, so at this age, I think it's fine to let him just be a kid.

    Answer by mrsmom110 at 7:05 AM on Dec. 19, 2013

  • Aspies at least are perfectly capable of fitting in. It is understanding why that might be a problem. Do some research on girls with Aspie and learn just how capable they are of copying the rules.

    Answer by Anonymous at 7:29 AM on Dec. 19, 2013

  • Me personally, I would start out at a young age teaching my child what is socially acceptable  and what is not.  At least try.  To me even at 5, that  is odd.

    But hey, if what he does, does not bother you.  Let him do odd stuff.


    Answer by louise2 at 7:33 AM on Dec. 19, 2013

  • Got to pick your battles
    Goes for children with autism and those without


    Your "normal" ...crossing the social norm, changes when you care for a child in the spectrum...and that is not a bad thing
    You have a wider exceptence of people

    Op, how much has your view of the world and all the variety widened since having a spectrum child? I know my norm is not like others norms, nor is it what mine used to be.

    Answer by fiatpax at 7:42 AM on Dec. 19, 2013

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