Hope you've enjoyed the series thus far. If you missed any pieces of the series, please review the archive section. New posts will be written on weekly basis, typically premiering at the end of the week. The next installment of this dialogue focuses on taking an emotional approach that helps the person with Autism feel more comfortable.
When trying to connect with another person, it’s not just connecting with words but with emotions as well. The same is true for connecting to people with Autism. The difference is, however, that the emotional approach is not the same. For example, while a bright energetic approach may be attractive for many people it is typically not attractive to people with Autism and those with sensory sensitivities. In fact, this level of excitement, especially from an unfamiliar person, could be quite overwhelming and aversive. Anxiety is already high in these instances and the high excitement level often makes the situation unbearable. So, instead of trying to be a reinforcing or engaging presence, this type of approach seems to have the opposite effect. As parents and educators, the natural tendency is to show our excitement when our children and students do well, but any person would not want to perform well when the consequence of that performance causes sensory overstimulation. Therefore, when approaching a person with Autism it is best to take a calm approach. Shows as little affect as possible during the initial stages and then gradually increase your emotional expression as the person with Autism becomes more comfortable with you. Don’t assume that if the person with an Autism shows more affect that it is a cue for you to show more emotion. People with Autism are often better at giving sensory stimulation to others rather than receiving it because they can control the level of stimulation they will be experiencing and are prepared to experience it. When receiving stimulation, the receiver is typically unaware of the amount of stimulation they will be receiving and may not be prepared to accept it.
Steven C. Altabet, Ph.D.