My heart broke many times when I heard Joey beg other children to play with him. One such moment was when he asked a group of boys his age if he could join them in playing a game of cards. They promptly turned him away, with the excuse that too many kids were playing already. However, the next child who asked to play was quickly welcomed into the group. Joey, who was taking it all in, ran to me in tears. I wondered, as I often did, what I could do to help.
Would forcing the boys to let Joey play improve the situation? Was it okay for me to explain to them why Joey acted the way he did? Would the children even understand what autism is, since Joey did not look any different from the rest of the children? My questions led me to learn how to explain autism to children so that they could be more accepting of their peers with autism spectrum disorders.
In church groups that include young people on the autism spectrum, adults have a unique opportunity to create a supportive climate by educating typical peers about the challenges of autism. For helpful tips, read “Explaining Autism to Children and Youth."
Vanessa Yoder wrote this article when shae was a Student Associate for ADNet.