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    Posted March 29, 2014 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Communicating through autism

    More from eferguson22

    10 Things You Should Know about Communicating with an Autistic Child


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Emily Ferguson's son Sammy has made great strides in the last two years. He now speaks occasionally and uses picture cards to convey his wants. She says he is able to make 16 nonfood requests (play with me, outside, toy lizard, hug, music toy, etc.) and about 30 food requests.

    "About a year ago, I was tickled when Sammy realized he had no limit to the amount of times he could request cookies. For the first time, I felt like a 'normal' mother, because I had a child who was asking for something he wanted repeatedly and he was getting the same answer ('No.'). He is also able to tell me when he wants to go outside to play, wants a hug, would like his water tube toy, etc. It has been an amazing experience to see Sammy go from just crying to using pointing to giving others picture cards on sentence strips."

    She said she prays Sammy will find the communication tools that work best for him, "and that he will be able to share his thoughts and emotions with those around him. Until that day, I want the world to understand that my child is worth respecting, loving, and cherishing."

    Visit Emily's iReport profile to learn more about Sammy and his progress. Do you have autism or a loved one on the spectrum? How do you communicate? Add your story to this assignment and it could be featured on CNN.
    - dsashin, CNN iReport producer

    First of all, I am the mother of an amazing 8 year old boy, named Sammy, living with severe autism. Here are some tips I share with family and friends when it comes to communicating with my child. Now, if you meet one autistic child, you meet one autistic child. Each one is unique and has different needs. This is just want I have learned while interacting with my son:


    1. Speak with respect and with an age appropriate tone of voice. Please don't speak loudly and with a "baby" tone of voice.


    2. Don't require or wait for eye contact. You could be waiting a very, very long time!


    3. Talk with my child. Pause like you would in normal conversation and wait for a response. No, he probably won't reply with words, but watch his body language, listen to his breathing, etc. I believe a child's worst fear is being invisible.


    4. Don't avoid my child. Autism isn't contagious!


    5. Please have an open mind. Please don't judge. I understand when people are judging my parenting skills when my child is having a meltdown in the middle of the grocery store or wherever. Judgmental attitudes never help. A lady at a New Jersey beach two years ago offered to help carry things back to my van when Sammy was having a fit. I will never forget that act of kindness. An open and helpful heart goes a long way!


    6. When you spend time with an autistic child, please understand autism doesn't define him or her. Each child has different interests and explores the world differently.


    7. Try to ignore the gross behaviors...yes, gross behaviors. Picking the nose, scratching the butt, etc. are behaviors that happen anywhere. Washing hands is something we do frequently.


    8. You don't have to be an autism specialist in order to connect with a child living with autism. Learn about autism, reach out to a family or a support group, and make connections.


    9. Don't touch my child. My son likes his personal space and he has occasional aggressive behaviors. Also, his teachers and I are teaching him boundaries. It is okay for family to snuggle and hug him, but it isn't okay for people outside of the family to do so.


    10. Encourage my child. Notice what my son is doing and say something. Everyone loves encouragement.


    Photo by Lyle Wenger

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