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How to explain autism to children

by ines.wurbs@icloud.com

Autism has become an increasingly common issue for us and our children lately. Questions often arise when they hear the word autism or encounter autism in their everyday lives. Here you can find out how you can explain autism to your child easily and understandably, and why it is not a disease.

Autism explained to children

Autism is a developmental disorder. Autism is often characterized by a particular way of perceiving the environment and oneself, difficulty recognizing emotions, and a high need for security and control. I have written everything below so that you can read it together with your child or read it aloud:

Autistic people have a special perception

Autism is a different form of cognition. When someone has autism, they perceive the world differently than we do. Autistic, as people who have this developmental disability are called, are usually very sensitive to everything they see and hear.

They notice little things that you probably don’t notice, and don’t notice other things that are essential to you. For example, many autistic people do not recognize people by the appearance of their faces, but by their hair, jewelry, or other things.

People with autism take what is said very seriously

When someone says something, people with autism often take it very seriously. But they usually answer questions very precisely. Therefore, one should be careful what we ask. For example, if you ask, “Did you like it? Then a person with autism is likely to just say, “Yes,” and probably nothing else. So, the question is answered.

Recognizing facial expressions is often difficult

People with autism also often have difficulty recognizing emotions from facial expressions. If someone looks down and is sad, autistic people may not notice.

It is sometimes difficult for them to express their feelings the way most people do. But they all still have feelings, they just might show them differently.

They particularly like order

Autistic people like order, and it is also particularly important for them. It gives them a sense of security more than anything else. When things are normal and things go as planned, people with autism feel more comfortable. If something unforeseen happens or if something is not usual, autistic people are often afraid or at least feel very insecure and uncomfortable.

This can show as he/she withdraws, sits still and rigid, walks away, or even gets angry. In such situations, autistic people often do not know what is happening and how to proceed. They often do not succeed so well in adapting and getting involved with new things. And uncertainty creates fear in most people.

Not all people are the same

We humans are all different. We can all do some things better and some things worse. It’s the same with autistic people. There are many things people with autism are good at, but at other issues, they are not. But of course, not all autistic people are the same. There are different forms and also different characteristics.

Some people have very few signs. You may know some of it yourself. It’s natural and shouldn’t worry you, but it might help you find common ground. Unfortunately, others also have strong symptoms.

There are also books on the topic that explains autism and being different well for children.

How can you help autistic people?

If there is a child in your class or group, there are a few things that might help him/her feel comfortable:

  • Let him/her join in if he/she wants to
  • You can also ask him/her if he/she would like to participate in something
  • But also accept a no and don’t push him/her into anything
  • Be clear with what you say
  • Ask if your question isn’t fully answered
  • Don’t be surprised if you make a joke and he/she doesn’t laugh
  • If you want something from him/her, just say it, and don’t expect him/her to do it without you saying so
  • Leave his/her stuff alone
  • Surprises of any kind are usually not well received by autistic people
  • If he/she knows you, you can try to explain in such situations where something unexpected happens, what it is going to happen now 
  • If you notice that he/she is visibly uncomfortable, scared, or angry, get someone who knows the autistic person well and who can help them


It’s best if you take a look and get to know each other. Very ordinary and uncomplicated. It’s great that you inquire in advance and gather information. Unfortunately, I can only give you general tips because everyone is so different. But let it come to you, and maybe you will become friends too. Or not. You can never tell before, like with everyone else. 

You now know what you might be looking at. But it doesn’t matter if you don’t think about it. You don’t need to be extra excited about it. I’m sure you’ll learn from each other soon. Have fun!

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