Many people have asked me for the “user guide” to treating, communicating, and interacting with children and adults with special needs or more specifically, autism. The problem with that is that there is NO one way to connect with someone.
In this World, no one is exactly the same as everyone else. If I was to talk to a random person, I might avoid touchy subjects like politics or religion and just stick to what I know is pleasant and easy to talk about. This concept is no different than with people with special needs.
What I typically do in a new encounter with someone who may have special needs of some kind, I typically approach with:
1. A friendly smile
2. A pleasant greeting
3. Eye contact
From there you wait patiently, observe, and adjust. The important thing is to be respectful and just try. The worst thing you can do is probably just assume that they have no communicable capabilities and talk down to them or ignore them all together.
I have a client who is 28 years old and just struggles with her memory and is a little developmentally delayed. Something that she has expressed to me is how frustrating it is when people think she is stupid and treat her as such. She is capable of highly intelligent conversations, we talk about religion and politics and many more subjects when we are working together. However, a previous care provider of hers spoke to her in broken sentences (i.e. “go car”). I speak to her in my normal tone and in the same way I would talk to anyone else, simple respect and it’s something she appreciates greatly.
It takes very minimal effort to try and connect with another person, it takes very little effort to respectfully talk to someone. That’s all you have to do, if you do that then there is no way you can fail. 🙂