Compassion is the most important word for autistic children

Compassion is the most important word when parenting, teaching or interacting with autistic children. Be understanding about the unique needs and sensory profiles. Also encourage them to be kind towards themselves.

We’ve had several incidents lately where compassion has been key.

Compassion around transitions

When routines change, this often causes anxiety and a sense of lack of control over the environment. This can lead to what looks like poor behaviour – refusal to participate, meltdowns, outbursts of emotion, increased stimming or repetitive behaviours, decreased resilience for activities that would normally be okay. At these times, have some compassion. Don’t do so much, lower expectations, build in more time for regulation.

Compassion around assessment

Autistic children can have different needs around assessment in school. They may not be comfortable communicating in front of a whole class. Also, consider the unreasonable expectation giving eye contact and having an interesting (non monotone) voice. Having compassion around how evidence of learning is collected is important. Maybe the oral presentation isn’t necessary. Perhaps it can be presented in a recorded video, in a one-on-one conversation, through a series of annotated photos, or just use observational evidence over time in a portfolio. Let’s be compassionate about not forcing or expecting autistic children to be like neurotypicals – don’t put the requirement to “fit in” to a neurotypical environment on autistic kids.


Autistic children can often be really hard on themselves. When things go wrong, or mistakes happen, they can internalise this to mean that they are not smart, they are not good or that they are a waste of space. So encourage autistic children to be kind to themselves. We all make mistakes. Also, the difficulties they are having are due to the way their brain is wired differently and it’s not their fault. They have strengths and are loved for who they are. A big dose of self-compassion is good daily preventative medicine.

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