Many people with autism do not have any physical characteristics to give the public a clue that they could possibly behave or speak differently.  www.brighttots.com
Autism in Public Places
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Autism in Public
For parents, caregivers, and family members of individuals with autism it’s disturbing dealing with society’s lack of knowledge
about autism. People with autism don’t have any physical characteristics to give the public a clue that they could possibly behave
or speak differently. Some autistic behaviors considered to be inappropriate, such as outbursts, tantrums or "meltdowns" may be
the child’s only way to communicate their needs, wants and frustrations.

Many times when children with autism have an “overload” in a public place, strangers stare and some may go as far as to a
make an offensive comment. If a child with autism has a meltdown in a grocery store, for example, other customers might stare
with disapproval at the parents. Some parents may try explaining politely that the child has autism and does not have a discipline
problem and then ask politely not to stare, or some parents just ignore and move on disregarding the stranger.

Children with autism have an unusual sensory system and when aggravated their senses become unbearable; their system
overloads causing some children uncontrollable outbursts which at times may be destructive. Autism causes sensory triggers
which may include emotional and environmental; the child may become disorganized, distressed and overwhelmed suddenly and
unpredictably. Society does not understand these overloads and may just stare at you and your child shocked. Sadly, the majority
of people in our society just see an out-of-control child.

Parents of children with autism are often put in situations out of their control which may make them feel uncomfortable. Any
parent raising a child with autism will tell you that overloads are most common in public locations. Stores, malls, parks, or
restaurants - anywhere with a lot of people, activity, and noise these environments increase experiencing a sensory overload. In
social situations children with autism may have the tendency to exhibit autistic behaviors in crowded settings because their
awareness of sights and sounds is often heightened in these areas. What appears to us as a normal room, a child with autism
might experience it as being in surrounded with loud noises echoing everywhere. Walkways and tunnels are often a problem it
may make a child with autism feel enclosed.

Disruptive Behaviors

Sometimes as a parent of a child with autism you find yourself at a playground observing how the other parents look at your
child. Sometimes children with autism present echolalia, weird noises, constant humming, and strangers probably wonder what’
s wrong with him or her. During disruptive autistic behaviors it seems as if the people around you are staring at your child. A
child with autism may behave oddly or display some different behavior but just as typical children they enjoy playing outdoors
and having fun. They should not be isolated.

The entire world needs to change their attitude towards autism. Parents, relatives, friends and professionals must to educate
society on being kind and patient to individuals living with autism, rather than excluding or ignoring them.   Keep in mind that
some people are interested in learning about autism and you may have an opportunity to educate them. Even with the increased
awareness about autism, unfortunately there’s still a misconception surrounding the disorder, and it’s definitely a problem for
families living with autism.

Autism cuts across racial, social, economic, and geographic boundaries. Even in the best of circumstances, your life raising a
child with autism becomes very different. Parents are frequently adjusting, doing what they have to do just to overcome the trials
and tribulations that autism brings, while maintaining healthy, it’s hard to imagine if you haven't lived it. Anyone living with
autism knows parties and family events can be challenging, and at times embarrassing. Many families have found that invitations
to social occasions do not come as frequently. Some families have found that friends with “typical” children may not want their
child around a child with autism. This is pure ignorance because autism is not contagious.  

During an overload, a child with autism does not look, nor care, if those around them are observing his/her behavior. A child
with autism in the middle of a meltdown does not consider his/her own safety, and has no interest on the social circumstances.

Outbursts will usually continue and on their own or may or with assistance wind down slowly. An overload makes it known that
no one is in control; neither the parent nor child.

Leading Causes of Inappropriate Behaviors

Language delays:
Children with autism may not always understand what is being said to them or asked of them, due to their
communication delays. They also may lack the language to clearly express their wants and needs. Misbehaving, or throwing a
tantrum, is a good way to get attention and often is the only way the some children can express their emotions and themselves.

Sensory disorder: Sensory integration disorder can also be a primary cause of behavioral issues. A common feature of autism is
oversensitivity to sounds, texture, smell and lights. Watch out for telltale signs of an overload such as covering eyes, banging the
head, and being unusually sensitive to sound.

Change in routine: The need for sameness or routine is common for many children with autism. When children impose a high
level of rigidity and structure on their environment, they are setting up unrealistic expectations. When these expectations are not
met, it leads to an increase in anxiety and frustration, which, in turn, leads to an increase in behavioral problems.

Manipulating Meltdowns

When a child with autism understands and manipulates a meltdown to get his/her own way, you are dealing with an intelligent
child who can stop the behavior if it is caught in time. A meltdown usually occurs because of a specific want is not permissible.
Show the child you are in control. Keep in mind that a child with autism, regardless of how well they understand that the
tantrum is not wanted, after a limit has been reached, nothing can satisfy the child until the situation is over.

Another cause of meltdowns can be other health issues. When your child begins a meltdown, remove him/her from any areas
that could harm to the child such as glass shelving and doors or any objects that may cause injury.

It's important to always keep in mind that children with autism spectrum disorders are not necessarily being manipulative or
stubborn when they are having behavioral difficulties. They may not have any other way to express what they are experiencing.
If we learn to listen to behaviors, we'll be able help them handle them in a more effective and productive manner.
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