Numerous people express their emotions with a choice of words; however, for literal-minded autistic individuals, inferring emotions from words can pose challenges. Neurodivergent individuals often experience difficulties in recognizing, reacting, and managing strong emotions such as anger, happiness, and fear.
Most neurotypicals can identify another’s emotion by feeding off features such as tone of voice, body posture, facial expression. Many autistic individuals have harder times recognizing these features. According to raisingchildren.net.au, autistic children often find it hard to respond to other people’s emotions and might “seem to lack empathy with others.''
Contrary to misconceptions that autistic individuals lack emotions, autistic people have emotions — they just have difficulty identifying and reacting to emotion.
Understanding the emotional traits of autism is crucial to creating an inclusive society. For instance, increased knowledge about autistic individuals’ emotional response to music has led to discoveries in music’s benefits for social-emotional and cognitive development. A study by spectrum news concluded that the same children with difficulties taking emotional and social cues, “responded to music...understanding the emotions conveyed through non-verbal musical cues.” The study also states that music “improves symptoms of autism such as verbal communication, agitation, and social interaction deficits." Furthermore, according to raisingchildren.net.au, autistic children use a range of musical activities – singing, playing instruments, improvising, songwriting and listening to music... to promote communication and social skills like making eye contact, sharing attention and taking turns.”
Below are resources to learn more about music and autism:
Psychology Today's Article on "How Music Therapy Affects the Brain in Autism"
People on the autism spectrum sometimes have trouble controlling their emotions, which may result in a meltdown. According to healthline.com, these meltdowns are “what their bodies need to do to release tension and emotion from feeling overwhelmed with emotions or sensory stimulations. Their brains are wired differently and so it’s just how they interact with the world.” Neurotypicals can support autistic individuals experiencing meltdowns or sensory overload by being empathetic and understanding.
We must try our best to build meaningful relationships with people on the autism spectrum. Being respectful, patient, calm, and not being deterred by symptoms autistic people display is essential when interacting with them.
Here are some resources to learn more about interacting with autistic individuals:
By better understanding the emotional side of autism we can create supportive environments where they can thrive.
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