Autism And Being Touched

loving couple embracing gently in studio

A new study conducted by University College Dublin has shown that the top two things, aside from the language skills of autistic children, are their ability to think critically and how much they like certain sensations. The study was based on recent research that suggested it wasn’t autism itself that impaired social interactions in kids on the spectrum but rather a sensory overload. Sensory overload is basically when a person has too many stimuli in their environment. Now keep in mind that some people with autism have sensory seeking behaviours such as self-harm, eating non-food items and other things, but there are also those who don’t.

I’m not sure what the difference between [docile] and [intense] means if they mean the same thing. I’ll scale it up a bit.

According to a recent survey, 46% of parents with children on the spectrum didn’t think their kids were as docile as people thought they were but rather intense and very sensitive. This is why about 90% of those surveyed said that their top two priorities for kids with autism were teaching them to curb self-harm and eating non-food items (toucheristic) behaviours, as well as encouraging positive touch behaviours.

Although there are still parents out there who don’t understand the need for these types of behaviour modifications, about 80% of those surveyed said that even though their kids have “special needs”, they’re still their kids, and they love them.

About 46% of parents said that they knew about the survey through an article posted on Facebook, while another 20% heard it on social media. The rest found about it through their kids’ school, physicians and other forms of communication.

Now for the touchy part:

The study also found that almost all parents of children on the spectrum said they didn’t want others to think they were “overprotective” of their child’s ability to experience touch either positively or negatively, even though 80% thought their little one’s skin was as thick as an elephant’s. About 70% of those who took the survey said they didn’t want their kids to experiment with how much pain and/or discomfort they could withstand, though about half were okay with them doing it in a controlled environment such as at home.

The top two touch-related responses parents wanted for their kids were stimming (self-soothing) and positive touch behaviour (like hugging).

About 75% of those who took the survey said that they wanted other kids to approach their son or daughter, but 68.6% thought that was an unrealistic expectation. So I guess it’s like one step forward, two steps back?

So basically, what this means is that there are things like autism-friendly places out there where autistic children can go and do certain activities, but because people with autism aren’t all the same, they need to try new activities before learning how much their bodies can handle. This doesn’t mean bullying autistic kids because many of them can also be shy or selective about who they like to be near, but make sure to ask their parents if they want you to initiate contact with them.

Another thing is that even though autistic children may seem like it, they’re not all the same – and they shouldn’t be treated as such. Like I said earlier: Their brain’s don’t work as ours do, and that’s why you should never assume that they want the same things that you do.

Another thing is to make sure to give them chances since many of them like routine, and it’s only natural for them to avoid new things (not doing so can cause sensory overload) but make sure not to force anything on them because, again, it’ll lead to sensory overload. And if they don’t want to hug you, don’t feel hurt because it’s not something they’ll ever change their mind about.

There are still a lot of kids out there who have no idea what autism is, and even though it seems like this survey shows that people, in general, do know a little bit more about it compared to last year, there’s still a lot to learn about autism and how it doesn’t discriminate.

So make sure you help them understand what autism is, and if you’re not too sure, that’s okay! Check out articles like this one or ask their parents what they can do to spread the word and become more understanding of these children’s needs.

And finally: Don’t touch a child on the autism spectrum without their parents’ permission unless they’re hurting themselves or someone else.

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