Being Respectful when Programming for Autistics
In much of my work, I am asked to facilitate or design activities that are accessible to people on the Autism Spectrum. As it happens, this is not rocket science. People with autism do not need to play ‘autism soccer’ or play the ‘autism guitar’. I have not had to create a whole world of activities that did not previously exist. Instead, I tend to support activities that are already fun with clear expectations, and structured choices.
Visual support or visually based expectations is a way of being respectful to a variety of learning and communication methods. However, all the visual support in the world cannot make a lame activity fun, and planning activities that are actually fun is also a sign of respect.
In the photo above, I am explaining how I want group members to act, using a list of expectations. This particular group of kids can read, and have done groups like this before, so the list is targeted towards them. As they read the expectations, we run through scenarios that could happen, such as not wanting to play a game that is on the schedule. When we read the part that says ‘we can choose which activities we want to do’, I ask them to demonstrate various methods for opting out, such as verbalizing ‘I don’t want to play this one’, or sitting in a place we’ve designated as an ‘I’m not participating right now’ place. These opt-out methods can be supported visually as well.
Usually, allowing participants to be optional is respectful in a recreation setting. However, I have known individuals who respond better to different kinds of choices, such as “what you eat for a snack is a choice, but soccer practice is not a choice”.
I’ve found that most people with autism can enjoy a huge variety of activities, despite their purported rigidity and restricted interests, when the activities are explained clearly, and they are empowered with choices about their level of participation.
2 thoughts on “Being Respectful when Programming for Autistics”
It’s so great that you were able to come up with programming that will work for different levels of autism. I find that it’s not that the children or adults with autism CANNOT do the activities, it’s just that sometimes the activities have to be changed to suit them. For lower functioning individuals somtimes it’s better to cut out some of the rules of activities, or break down the structure and go with that, and with high functioning individuals it’s easier to go with the approach that you used. Way to go!!
Thanks for sharing about this. Can I just make one comment? (I know, too late to ask since I’m going to do it whether you say no or not!) Not every autistic is visual.. so I love that you use words too! As you’ve worked with autistic individuals, I’m sure you’ve noted there are different sub-types which have different brain issues that cause them to process information differently (i.e. verbal v. visual). 🙂