Understanding a child’s perspective – A voice of a child with Autism


Can’t versus won’t

I may not be ignoring you on purpose when you tell me to do something. Perhaps I just can’t understand what you’re saying. Remember my language is not as developed as yours. If you say, for example, “Matt we need to wash our hands. Can you see that lunch is being served?” I might just hear “Matt lunch” and then wonder why I get in trouble when I wander over there. Please make sure you use simple words. Tell me exactly what to do and why, so it’s easy for me to do the right thing. For example: “Matt, wash hands then lunch.”

Literal language

I may be confused when you say something to me because I only understand the literal meaning of the words. I don’t understand that there may be another meaning. If you say, for example, “You bit off more than you can chew” when I’m not eating I don’t know you mean “You took on a very big task”. When you say something “costs an arm and a leg” I see someone missing those body parts, and if you say “It takes two to tango” I don’t know you mean it takes more than one person. Please say exactly what you mean.

 Visual learner

I’m only learning about language so I don’t always understand what you say unless there are pictures to help me or you show me how to do things.  Please don’t get angry if I need to be shown many times. I am a visual learner so simply telling me things makes it very hard for me to learn. I often get stressed trying to remember my next activity or managing my time. A visual routine with photographs or drawings helps me with this. See for example https://www.cesa7.org/sped/Autism/structure/str11.htm. When I’m older I may have words instead of pictures – or even a combination – but pictures and drawings are what I need at the start.

Can do not can’t do

I have my own way of doing things, so please don’t get angry when I don’t follow the “right” way. I have many strengths, and I can do many things. Don’t focus on what I can’t do as this makes me feel I’m being judged for being ‘broken’. Please help me excel in the things I can do and encourage me to try new things. If you constantly tell me or correct the way I’m doing things I will not let you into my world. I am smart, but in my own way.

 Social learning

I’m not very good at reading people’s or my own feelings and emotions, and I need help learning how to socialise with others and how to respond in social situations. You may have to teach me, for example, not to laugh at inappropriate times. If I’m on my own don’t assume I want to be by myself and that I don’t like playing with other children. Please remember I may need help learning how to join in the play, and how to respond to other children’s emotions. You may also need to show other children how to ask me to join in. Structured play activities work well for me because they have a clear start and end.

Managing meltdowns

I don’t enjoy having meltdowns, but sometimes I get so frustrated not having the language to communicate how I feel or what I need that this is the only way I have to communicate. Sometimes my senses just get so overloaded and a meltdown happens. Please take notice when I have a meltdown and try and work out what is causing them eg a particular activity, time, person or setting. Keep a record of your observations.


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