Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have many abilities, strengths, and skillsets. Many, however, may encounter some challenges with communication, social interaction, and sensory processing. These challenges can make it difficult to navigate society. Being in environments like stores, within large groups, and expectations to follow certain behaviors can cause distress. As a caring community, we can do more to increase our awareness of the challenges individuals with autism, and their families may face. We can make changes to our behaviors to engage better through inclusivity.
You might ask, “well what is inclusivity?”. Inclusivity is defined as “the fact or policy of not excluding members or participants on the grounds of gender, race, class, sexuality, disability, etc.”
How inclusive and how much access we provide will be different for all communities, organizations, groups, and families that want to increase inclusivity.
Here are 10 Ways to Promote Inclusivity for Individuals with Autism:
Many individuals with autism have difficulty with communication. This can look different for all individuals. Speaking in a way that allows the person we are communicating with to better understand and interact with us is key! Using gestures during communication that go along with what we are saying may aid in our communication with those with autism.
Having signs that have both written words and pictures can help those with autism better understand the message the sign is relaying.
Greetings can look very different across cultures. Considering how we are greeting others and what their level of comfort may be is important. Simply saying “hello” or “goodbye” and also asking about how an individual or family greets us can help us better understand how we all greet differently.
Some individuals with autism struggle to understand personal space boundaries. Knowing this can help us understand that an interaction with an individual with autism is not intended to be offensive, but simply something they may still be learning and working on. We can kindly ask the individual to take a step back or let them know that we are going to take a step back. Communicating this increases respect for the individual.
This goes together with communication. We all communicate and interact differently. Recognizing that some people with autism may not make eye contact or may make brief eye contact can help us to better interact with those with autism.
Training and Education
Investing time and effort for yourself, staff, group, or family on how to engage more and in different ways with individuals with autism helps to promote inclusivity, spread awareness, and increase acceptance of differences. We offer a variety of trainings to assist.
Keeping an open mind in how we communicate or maybe a request from a customer or client that is within reason and feasible for your business can provide the open door to start a conversation or look into what we can shift to increase inclusivity and accessibility.
Maintaining a curious stance and asking questions to learn and make modifications, while remaining respectful is crucial. This allows us to become more knowledgeable about how we can be inclusive of individuals with autism or their families.
Having patience when engaging with someone with autism can give them the time and space they need to communicate, interact, and access what it is they need. Be patient and be kind. It can make someone’s day!
It can be hard to be non-judgmental, but it is something we need to be mindful of and actively demonstrate so that we can be more inclusive. Being curious, respectful, kind, and patient, while trying to help or engage with an individual with autism is a step towards acceptance and promoting inclusivity.
We are in this world together. Let’s promote inclusivity for those with different skills and abilities. Change has to start with us.
Reference:  Dictionary.com. (n.d.). Inclusivity definition & meaning. Dictionary.com. Retrieved April 4, 2022, from https://www.dictionary.com/browse/inclusivity