Autism is a multifaceted medical disorder that hinders normal thought processes and social development. As a result, people who suffer from this pervasive condition have difficulty communicating and interacting with others, despite an intense desire to do so. Approximately one in 166 children younger than age 10 are afflicted with this life-long disorder. Their ability to function independently varies case by case. Children and adults who are low functioningreside with their parents or in a group home so that they can receive the care and assistance that they need. Adults who are high functioning are often able to lead relatively normal lives and support themselves (Schopler and Mesibov 1992). Although they face challenges, their biggest problem typically arises during their interactions with neurotypical individuals in academic settings or in the workplace. It is important that classmates, teachers, co-workers and supervisors recognize the emotional challenges that autism creates. Individuals on the autism spectrum want to interact with others, but socializing can be difficult. Most tend to struggle when clearly expressing emotions and may display a variety of atypical behaviors. These may include continuing to speak on a topic after the conversation has moved on, interjecting statements that may be irrelevant to the subject being discussed or repeating words or phrases, which is known as echolia (Elbaum 2015). They may unintentionally violate personal space due to lesser developed social skills.
While neurotypical people have quirky habits, such as pacing, twirling their hair or tapping a pencil, these mannerisms are generally more prevalent in those with autism. Understanding these behaviors will help others to be understanding, considerate and relatable in their interactions. If a discussion about the person is required, it is best to do it outside of his or her hearing. Most often those with autism are completely aware of and self-conscious about their behavior and should be made to feel supported and respected, not self conscious or uncomfortable. The goal should be to relate to a person with autism as you would anyone else. Part of accepting autism is realizing that the brain of those affected function differently. If you understand the challenges of those on the autism spectrum, it will help that individual and others cope with the illness, which can encourage awareness and adaptations that are required for a successful learning and working environment. The result is a marvelous opportunity to help someone develop essential social skills and lead a productive life.