How to explain autism to a seven year old

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HurdyGurdy
HurdyGurdy Posts: 987 Forumite
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My 6 year old autistic grandson is visiting us for this week. He's very non communicative, and the only things he's really interested in are bouncing on the trampoline and his tablet. This is only the second time he's been to spend any time with us.

My seven year old granddaughter (his cousin) has come for a sleepover tonight (because her mummy's working) and she's just not understanding why he won't talk to her (literally - he just repeats everything you say to him back to you. He can't answer questions, or hold any kind of a conversation) or play with her. He will bounce alongside her on the trampoline, but won't play "properly"

We've tried explaining that he's very little, and he doesn't understand things the way she does, but I don't think we're making it easy for her to comprehend.

Has anyone any suggestions as to how to explain autism in a child friendly way?
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  • Wolfhorde
    Wolfhorde Posts: 23 Forumite
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    I am not by any means any expert in this topic. Maybe try something like this:

    Our brain sees and understands all the things we can see, smell, touch, taste, etc. There are people, whose brain might have troubles with understanding those things. This may cause that they find it hard to understand, play or listen to what we say.
  • minimad1970
    minimad1970 Posts: 6,157 Forumite
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    I know they're not siblings but how about a book like this...http://www.autism.org.uk/products/core-nas-publications/my-family-is-different.aspx

    There's loads of others to choose from online. Good luck.
  • Savvy_Sue
    Savvy_Sue Posts: 46,140 Forumite
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    I wonder if these books would be a help? Although they are described as Asperger Adventures they could be a good introduction. They may be in your local library, and they are available on Amazon.
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  • Nick_C
    Nick_C Posts: 7,462 Forumite
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    Maybe sit and watch Rain Man with her, and talk about it afterwards.
  • p00hsticks
    p00hsticks Posts: 12,983 Forumite
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    Nick_C wrote: »
    Maybe sit and watch Rain Man with her, and talk about it afterwards.


    I don't think Rainman's appropriate viewing for a 7 year old - it was given a 15 certificate by the BBFC
  • Nick_C
    Nick_C Posts: 7,462 Forumite
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    p00hsticks wrote: »
    I don't think Rainman's appropriate viewing for a 7 year old - it was given a 15 certificate by the BBFC

    I think that will depend on the seven year old.
  • peachyprice
    peachyprice Posts: 22,346 Forumite
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    edited 27 May 2018 at 8:43AM
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    I don't think any long-winded explanation is needed, just 'he has something called autism, that means he doesn't speak or play the same way as you, it's nothing to be afraid of and it doesn't mean he doesn't like you'

    If she wants to know more she will ask, probably not now, but children are curious, she will go away and think about it. Just be honest and answer her questions as simply and honestly as you can.

    Most important of all, make sure she understand that it's ok to be different and that there is nothing 'wrong' with her cousin, it's just his way.

    Hopefully if she spends plenty of time with him they will figure out their own way to play alongside each other. Children are usually pretty good at working it out for themselves given a little space and time.
    Accept your past without regret, handle your present with confidence and face your future without fear
  • Nicki
    Nicki Posts: 8,166 Forumite
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    My daughter has autism. I used to tell other kids that she was born with something different with her brain so she couldn't talk, and didn't understand the rules of their game, but there was nothing for them to be scared about and she was quite happy doing x
  • HurdyGurdy
    HurdyGurdy Posts: 987 Forumite
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    Thank you. I will get some of those books to read with her, but although Rain Man is one of my favourite films, I will definitely steer clear of that with her (I did tell her parents to watch it though when the little boy was diagnosed)

    unfortunately he doesn't spend very much time with us - they live 200 miles away - so their time for getting to know each other is limited.
  • jackomdj
    jackomdj Posts: 3,073 Forumite
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    Also ask her parents if there are any children in the school with a diagnosis, there probably will be, even if not in her class. You can then explain that it is a bit like whoever, and as Nicki says they have something a bit different in how their brain works and sees things.
    Most kids are quick to understand if someone is a bit different, and will act accordingly around them. My daughter had a non verbal, slow moving child in her primary school class, every single one of the other children (even those who were usually not the best behaved) would change how they behaved around her to include her in what they were doing.
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