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A Workshop on Autism with Autism International Director Sean Fitzgerald
Essential tools to help you boost your child's interaction, affection and communication.
Child with autism on car.

I notice things that you don’t

March 14, 2014

A mother was recently sharing that her five year old son with autism loves to climb up onto the hood of cars and stick his face up to the windscreen. It is so tempting to him that they no longer park their own car in the driveway.

Many people might simply look at this behavior and consider it wrong, dangerous or inappropriate. However if you investigate these types of behaviors further you often discover a compelling reason. In this boys case, he has begun to develop language and was able to share with his mother the reason why he was doing this. He told her that he could see tiny circles in the windscreen. They were fascinating to look at!

It turns out that windscreens are not perfectly smooth or clear. For safety reasons (so the glass doesn’t break into dangerous shards) the glass is actually pixelated. It’s as if it is made of of millions of tiny little clear golf balls. And guess what – he can see them.

My son with autism sees windshield pixels.This doesn’t mean that his mother won’t try to stop him climbing onto the hoods of cars – she will continue to teach him that this is a boundary because it is not safe for him (or for the car:). Yet having an understanding that he is doing this behavior for a reason helps her to be more understanding even as she sets a reasonable boundary and offers him an alternative.

What may look bizarre to you may be perfectly reasonable to your child.

If your child is non-verbal, you can get more insight into his behavior by investigating possible motivations and guessing at reasons yourself. In some cases you might even try out the behavior to see what you can learn from the experience. You won’t always discover the answer but simply knowing that there is a reason can be comforting and leads toward more respect for a child.

For more info, download Chapter 5, The Importance of Being Understanding and Open-Minded, of my Playbook, How to Play and Grow with a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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