Thrive with Autism – Tips for Those Looking to Understand — 5 Minutes for Special Needs

Thrive with Autism – Tips for Those Looking to Understand

by Emily


Andrea Richardson and Andrea Warner are two teachers who want to help parents Thrive With Autism. We love these tips from that they are sharing; both for parents, and for the community who is trying to understand Autism.

Have you ever been in a store, movie theatre, or, yes… even an elevator, and your child has a meltdown? Did the people surrounding you look at you like you were the worst parent around? Or worse, even ask you to control your child?

This is a common situation that many parents face on a daily basis as their children are learning skills needed to manage their environment. Meltdowns are common to most children, but seem to occur at a higher level of intensity for children with Autism.

Parents in this situation can feel discouraged, embarrassed, and angry. Having a few strategies in your back pocket, ready to whip out when needed, can help parents to feel more confident about taking their child with Autism out into the world. They can also help the community to gain a better understanding of Autism and build acceptance over time.

The key is to provide quick bits of information that will not be overwhelming, but will begin to educate the community on the complexity of Autism as well as some of the challenges families face.

Here are 5 ‘Elevator Speech’ messages you can use in the community when your child is having a meltdown:

  1. Children with Autism may have difficulty managing crowded spaces.
    “Crowded spaces can cause children and adults with Autism to feel like they are on sensory overload. It feels like when you go to a Chucky Cheese restaurant and it takes a while to overcome the noise, movement, smell, and lights. Being in a small space can cause my child to feel that way. If s/he cannot get away from the sensory overload quickly, s/he often will have a meltdown.”
  2. Children with Autism may have difficulty with hugs.
    “Hugs can feel like sharp knives for children with Autism. It can actually feel painful to them because their bodies are wired differently. Giving a hug may result in a meltdown because they feel pain, not because they don’t like you. High fives are a great alternative.”
  3. Children with Autism may not communicate in the same way you or I do.
    “Sometimes children with Autism may be loud in a restaurant or in a store. They are not misbehaving; they are trying to communicate something, but may not have the words to do so. Here is how my child can communicate with you: (Demonstrate how to best communicate with your child.)”
  4. Children with Autism learn best where the action is taking place.

    “Teachers often go out in the community with children with Autism. Teaching in the community helps a child with Autism learn how to participate in the community. Your child probably learns in their play and in the classroom and is able to carry this over to the community. Learning is more ‘black and white’ for children with Autism, and it works best to teach behavior where it is going to occur, every day, over and over again. Correction during these sessions helps my child learn the right way to do things.”

  5. Children with Autism have many interests.
    “Most kids have interests. Children with Autism tend to take ‘interests’ to the next level and are often experts on a topic. You may have the same interests they do. It may be hard for my child to accept another person’s opinion, but the common interest will help him/her learn to accept change. Let’s learn together.”

Help the community around your child understand what is happening. Keep these ‘Elevator Speeches’ tucked away, ready to use next time you are facing a meltdown. You’ll be able to express what is happening without putting down your child or feeling demoralized yourself.

Andrea Warner and Andrea Richardson are the teachers behind, which is a resource for families looking to discover the secrets to being successful and actually thriving with their children with Autism. This collaborative effort helps provide families with options, resources, tips, guides and checklists in supporting their children diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Email Author    |    Website About Emily

View all articles by


This post may contain affiliate links. When you use them, you support this site. Thank you!
See our Disclosure Policy for details.
1 Debbye October 15, 2011 at 10:43 am

Thank you for sharing these great tips! I teach kiddos with special needs age 0-3, and have worked with many families with children with autism. I love how easy and quick these tips are, and will be sharing this with the families and with my co-teachers! Thanks! 🙂

2 KDL October 19, 2011 at 6:39 pm

These are good, if the opportunity arises, to explain what has happened to an observer post-meltdown. Mid-meltdown I have learned that for us I need to tune out everyone except my children so that I can respond to their needs without worrying about what other people may be feeling or thinking.

3 kathleen dairo October 20, 2011 at 1:36 pm

my son oldest son phil has broad spectrum autism an he is almost 22 yrs old an he hasn’t had a severe meltdown in yrs but hes also had behavior health service up till age 21 . but i remeber the days when he had them .explaining what is happening is a good thing but there meltdown might be so extreme that you just have to consintrate on the child so that other don’t get hurt by the flying arms an legs .

4 Andrea Richardson October 20, 2011 at 1:48 pm

That is so true KDL. I think parents get to a point where they feel they need to say something to help educate other people and promote awareness and tolerance. These are quick and easy. I’ve had some parents even put them on a small card and hand them out when the situation arises.
Debbye, I’m glad these are helpful to you. Please share and check out other tips we have on the site.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: