I see the community both welcoming and friendly, as well as indifferent and unsafe. As parents and caregivers, we deeply desire our teens and adults with autism have acceptance and freedom. Examples include: to have safe community access, be supported by safe people, to participate in activities they enjoy, to have their needs met, and to have opportunities for work, learning, and doing what they love.
The focus of the majority of our current efforts tends to be on therapies, health related treatments, and strategies to socially behave ‘normally’. At times these are emphasized to the exclusion of strategies that any of us need to participate and to live in given situations. We may be too busy focusing on the clinical perspective of autism to the ommision of the broader life perspective. From this perspective, I believe we have let them down.
I believe it is a human right for individuals to be who they are and to know acceptance as a community member. We should never spend energy teaching or training for normalcy in order that an autistic person fits in. This is never the solution and may have detrimental drawbacks producing low emotions of self worth.
I believe there is hope for all of us. We can be supporters and teachers because we are all connected as members of the community. I offer twelve broad actions to acceptance for:
a. Parents, Teachers, or Caregivers
b. Community Members–Small acts that make a positive difference in someone’s life.
c. Individuals with autism.
If you are a parent or caregiver, there may be many issues to move through, yet we must be encouragers:
- Point out their best, their strengths, these are their essence. Take an active part in finding ways they can develop their strengths.
2. Many individuals have fear from past failures or experiences. Assist them in moving beyond their fears. Be creative in making preparations for new experiences. These have powerful effects in increasing the individual’s effectiveness in adapting emotionally. If necessary, prepare the individual for an upcoming activity with expectations that are predictable and comforting, and ones in which they can have a positive experience. Emphasize to the individual how his interests and strengths are meaningful, such as, enjoyment or connecting to others through the participation of an interest.
3. Offer support to enhance emotional needs in order that the individual can take part and feel better about himself.
If you are a community member, you can make a positive difference in the lives of individuals with autism and their families:
4. Extend an open attitude on behalf of autistic individuals’ and their families who need understanding and acceptance. If you see a situation whereby a caregiver or parent is struggling to manage, ask how you can assist. I recall when my autistic son Trent was a teen and we were in a difficult situation whereby a ‘community helper’ assisted. Trent and I were standing in a long line waiting to buy a ticket to see my youngest son’s high school football game. Trent was upset and unwilling to stand in the heat of the late afternoon. Trying to relieve Trent a bit, I walked him over to a large shade tree to sit and regain his balance. A man came up and handed me two tickets and said, “Maam I see that you have a situation on your hands, here go ahead and take these tickets.” I thanked him. I and will forever remember his generosity and the relief he offered us.
5. Show true acceptance for individuals who exhibit autism challenges or characteristics. Don’t just turn your gaze to move quickly away. Interact even if you offer only a smile. Acknowledge their presence when you can. Step beyond indifference and tolerance. Why? Because tolerance is a low level of awareness. Move upward from autism awareness into acceptance by offering your friendliness or assistance. https://marquettestrengthsindex.com/wp/?p=1087
6. Lead by example. Our perceptions and beliefs can be seen through our actions. Take a stand for the value, the purpose, and the presence of individuals with autism in community settings. Who knows you may have a positive effect like the man who assisted us with the tickets to the football game.
I realize there will always be people who will not be open and accepting of those with autism. There are many people who are closed, judgmental, and sadly, may see themselves as privileged with able bodies and minds. My son and I have experienced negative attitudes many times throughout the years. These negative people in the community can change, we can encourage them to get curious too.
What is most important is the individual with autism – and how she feels about herself, her emotions, her capabilities, her talents, with assistance or guidance to learn and live her own life.
If you are an individual who has autism and want to take steps to participate in your life, try these. You may want to seek out a mentor or coach.
7. Know your strengths, all of them. Unless you know your strengths, you have no way of knowing how they can be the answer to you having a fulfilled life doing what you love or desire, adapting, and living safely. Ask the question, “How am I capable?” https://marquettestrengthsindex.com/wp/?p=1098
8. Develop your strengths more deeply. This practice can enhance your potential in a career and connections to other people who also have similar interests.
9. Explore your personal and career interests. Learn more about how your strengths can open doors to opportunities that resonate with you. Your strengths can offer you the chance to be true to yourself. Enjoy this video about your strength options: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRVB-IH8VKs
10. Everyday repeat to yourself all of your best strengths. Look at all four areas: hard skills, self expression, personal preferences and emotional. Don’t ignore any area. Next, find a way to use one or more of your strengths in daily life or in career development.
11. Evaluate your personal preferences and discover how these support your 1) entry into new job, career, studies, 2) contentment in pursuing what you love, and 3) and a process of taking small steps on a task, project or a goal.
12. Identify and appreciate how your emotional strengths can turn your life into favorable realities. Ask someone you trust and/or a mentor to help you identify your best emotional strengths. Then ask the individual to be a support to help you develop self emotional awareness. I invite you to follow my posts and participate in upcoming live chats to keep you inspired. These are power practices. I promise – the power practices may require your focus, but if you do them consistently, you will take steps forward. These power practices will help you advocate for yourself, protect you from unfavorable or harmful situations, and simply keep you safe adapting in work or life situations.
My deepest hope for you is simply:
“Know that you have a flare of magnificence. Know that any mistakes you have made or past failure that happened to you, it isn’t because you did something wrong or because you stepped out to take a risk. You have the right to be who you are and to enjoy your part in the community. When you fall down, don’t allow the experience to have power over you. Do rest and recover your energy, but don’t settle, don’t let it win. Know that when others’ refused to understand or reject you, it wasn’t about you. It was more about their indifference and lack of understanding. Their biases have no power over you. When someone saw your limitations and tried to exclude you, realize this person’s ignorance. Don’t allow his actions to have power over you. Most importantly, do not allow anyone’s negative weak actions to define you. Regardless of how someone treated you in a situation or in the past – know you are overflowing with charm, emotions, and hidden strengths. Indeed, there is purpose and meaning in your life and you can become the real you with potential realities in your life.
Know that it is a good thing you are alive today. Know that your life is a legacy to the people who love you. You have potential to become someone larger than who you are now because you have strengths. Develop your strengths, use your strengths in life and vocations that feel like you. Why?Because the world needs you.”
I believe I have something unique to bring to the table, a strengths model to support personal preferences and emotional needs, the Capability Approach (CA). Within the CA, I designed the Marquette Strengths and Career Index, a self assessment tool to offer career possibilities that closely match the individual’s identified strengths in hard skill interests, self expression (multiple intelligences), personal preferences, and emotional strengths.
In interviews I listened to the voices of hundreds individuals with autism and their advocate/parents about how they found meaning and how they wanted to live their lives. Over three decades of study, my own research, private practice as a consultant through Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, I designed specialized career and life tools to facilitate getting the right job, pursue college, and/or to live interdependently. Additionally, I have a 39 year old son with autism who is an accomplished artist. I used these strategies to help him create work and have a life he has enjoyed with meaning and purpose. We personally experienced many trials and errors with set backs and progress. My mission is to help people with autism live their adult lives that can revolutionize our culture. The purpose is to create a new culture, much different from the past, impacting persons with disabilities from childhood through older adulthood years.
Please offer your comments or email me at http://firstname.lastname@example.org I spend a lot of time writing. If you like my blog and think it can help other people, please share it.
Thank you for reading blog.
Dr. Jackie Marquette
Autism Life Consultant, Speaker, Author, and Trainer
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