Last week, I started talking about my experience tutoring John, a boy with High Functioning Autism. I explained how I sometimes struggle to motivate him. This has taught me to meet challenges with a smile, because sometimes that’s all we can do. Essentially, getting all worked up doesn’t help the situation.
Working with John has also taught me infinite lessons about communication. For example, I’m a person who likes words. The more detailed you can be with your explanation, the better. But John does not like words… He starts doubting himself as soon as he sees the words on the page or holds the pen in his hand. So I’ve learned…
- When communicating with people with Autism, it’s often important to get straight to the point. If I start rambling, John gets this glazed-over look in his eyes. I’ve had to learn to abbreviate my directions.
- As I mentioned last week, John loves sports, so whenever I can put things into the context of athletics, it seems to increase his likelihood of comprehension by at least 50%.
- It’s been so important to teach him to ask for help. I always tell him, “If you don’t understand the directions, tell me. If you’re confused, stop me.” Then I ‘ll rewind, and try to think of a different way to say things.
- Sometimes it’s natural for us to try to conceal our emotions, or to assume that others will just be able to guess how we’re feeling. I never realized how often we do this until I started working with John. Unless I outright state what I’m feeling, he’s not going to pick up on it, and therefore, he’s not going to react the way I’d expect. I’ve learned how to be more direct about expressing my emotions.
Making these adjustments has been a challenge for me. It’s part of why I like tutoring: we have just as much to learn as we have to teach. John teaches me about people and communication every time I see him.
Come back next week for our third and final installment for Autism Awareness Month!