How Do You Explain Autism To A Child Without Autism?

Autism is a unique way of experiencing the world and interacting with others. It is important for children without autism to understand and empathize with their peers who have autism. In this section, we will explore what autism is and how to explain it to kids in a way they can understand.

What is Autism?

Autism is a developmental disorder that affects the brain and how a person thinks, communicates, and interacts with others. It is a spectrum disorder, which means that it can affect individuals in different ways and to varying degrees. Autism is often characterized by challenges in social communication, repetitive behaviors, and sensory sensitivities.

Children with autism may have difficulty understanding social cues, such as facial expressions and body language, which can make it harder for them to connect with others. They may also have specific interests or engage in repetitive behaviors, providing them with a sense of comfort and predictability. However, it's important to remember that every individual with autism is unique, and their experiences may differ.

Explaining Autism to Kids

When explaining autism to kids, it's helpful to use simple and age-appropriate language. Here are a few key points to consider:

  • Everyone is different: Explain that just like how we all have our own unique personalities, people with autism have their own unique way of thinking and experiencing the world. Emphasize that being different is perfectly okay and that we should celebrate diversity.
  • Thinking differently: Help kids understand that individuals with autism may see, hear, and feel things in a different way than they do. For example, while some kids might enjoy loud noises, others with autism might find them overwhelming. This difference in how our brains process information is what makes each of us special.
  • Communication challenges: Discuss how some individuals with autism may find it difficult to express their thoughts and feelings, or understand what others are saying. Encourage empathy by explaining that it can be frustrating for them when they want to communicate but struggle to do so. Highlight the importance of patience and understanding when interacting with someone with autism.
  • Being a good friend: Teach children that being a good friend means accepting and including everyone, regardless of their differences. Encourage them to be kind, patient, and supportive towards their peers with autism. Remind them that friendship is about understanding, accepting, and appreciating each other for who we are.

By fostering a greater understanding and acceptance of autism, we can create a more inclusive and compassionate world for everyone.

Autism and Brain Differences

To better understand autism, it's important to explore how the brain works and how autism affects the brain. This knowledge can help us explain autism to children in a way that is accessible and relatable.

How the Brain Works?

The brain is like the control center of our bodies. It helps us think, feel, and do all the things we love. It is made up of billions of tiny cells called neurons that send messages to each other. These messages are like instructions that tell our bodies what to do.

Different parts of the brain have different jobs. For example, the frontal lobe helps us make decisions, the temporal lobe helps us hear and understand language, and the amygdala helps us recognize and feel emotions.

How Autism Affects the Brain?

In the brains of people with autism, there are some differences compared to the brains of people without autism. These differences can affect how they think, feel, and interact with others.

One of the main differences in the brains of people with autism is how the neurons communicate with each other. The connections between neurons may be different, which can make it harder for information to flow smoothly in the brain. This can sometimes cause challenges in areas such as social communication and understanding emotions.

It's important to remember that everyone's brain is unique, and having autism is just one way that a brain can be different. These differences can bring strengths and challenges, and they make each person special in their own way.

By helping children understand the basic workings of the brain and how autism can affect it, we can foster a sense of empathy and acceptance. Encouraging children to embrace differences and show kindness to others, regardless of their abilities, can create a more inclusive and understanding world.

Autism and Social Communication

Autism is a condition that can affect how people communicate and interact with others. It's important to understand the difficulties individuals with autism may face in social communication and understanding emotions.

Difficulties in Social Communication

People with autism often have challenges in social communication. They may find it difficult to understand and use verbal and non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice. This can make it harder for them to interpret social situations and understand the emotions of others.

For example, someone with autism may have trouble picking up on subtle cues like a smile indicating happiness or a frown indicating sadness. They may struggle to initiate or maintain conversations, have difficulty understanding sarcasm or jokes, and may take things very literally.

It's important for children without autism to be patient and understanding when communicating with their peers who have autism. By being patient, listening attentively, and using clear and direct language, they can help create an environment that is more inclusive and supportive.

Challenges in Understanding Emotions

Understanding and expressing emotions can also be challenging for individuals with autism. They may have difficulty recognizing and labeling their own emotions, as well as understanding the emotions of others. This can make it hard for them to empathize with others or respond appropriately in social situations.

Children without autism can help by being understanding and supportive. They can learn to recognize and validate different emotions, and be patient when their peers with autism are trying to express themselves. It's important to remember that everyone experiences and expresses emotions differently, and that's okay.

By promoting empathy, acceptance, and inclusion, we can create a more compassionate society that values and supports individuals with autism.

Understanding the difficulties that individuals with autism face in social communication and understanding emotions is an important step towards fostering empathy and creating a more inclusive world.

Sensory Sensitivities in Autism

Children with autism often experience sensory sensitivities that can affect how they perceive and interact with the world around them. Understanding these sensory experiences is key to providing support and creating inclusive environments. Let's explore two important aspects of sensory sensitivities in autism: heightened sensory experiences and coping with sensory overload.

Heightened Sensory Experiences

For individuals with autism, their senses can be more sensitive or heightened compared to others. This means that everyday sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches may feel more intense or overwhelming to them. Here are some examples of heightened sensory experiences:

  • Sight: Bright lights, patterns, or busy visual environments may be overwhelming or distracting for a child with autism.
  • Sound: Loud noises, sudden sounds, or background noise can be distressing and make it difficult for a child with autism to concentrate or communicate effectively.
  • Smell: Certain smells, even those that may seem mild to others, can be overpowering or unpleasant to individuals with autism.
  • Taste: Some children with autism may have strong preferences or aversions to certain tastes or textures of food.
  • Touch: Certain fabrics, tags on clothing, or light touches can be uncomfortable or irritating to individuals with autism.

It's important to remember that sensory experiences can vary greatly among individuals with autism. What may be overwhelming for one person may not affect another in the same way. Understanding and accommodating these differences can help create a more inclusive environment for children with autism.

Coping with Sensory Overload

Sensory overload occurs when there is an overwhelming amount of sensory information that is difficult for a child with autism to process. This can lead to feelings of anxiety, stress, or even meltdowns. Here are some strategies that can help individuals with autism cope with sensory overload:

  • Provide a calm and quiet space: Creating a designated area where a child can retreat to when feeling overwhelmed can provide a sense of comfort and help them regain control.
  • Use visual supports: Visual aids, such as schedules, timers, or social stories, can help children with autism understand and prepare for sensory experiences they may encounter throughout the day.
  • Offer sensory breaks: Allowing short breaks during challenging or overwhelming situations can help children manage their sensory input and regulate their emotions.
  • Introduce sensory tools: Tools such as noise-canceling headphones, weighted blankets, or fidget toys can provide comfort and help individuals with autism regulate their sensory experiences.

By understanding and respecting the sensory sensitivities of individuals with autism, we can create environments that support their unique needs.

Embracing Differences and Inclusion

In understanding autism, it's important to emphasize acceptance, empathy, and inclusion. By embracing differences, we create a world that is more understanding and supportive of individuals with autism. Here are two key aspects of embracing differences and fostering inclusion for children:

Emphasizing Acceptance and Empathy

One of the most important things we can do when it comes to autism is to teach acceptance and empathy. Children without autism can learn to understand and accept their peers with autism, recognizing that everyone is unique and valuable. Here are a few ways we can emphasize acceptance and empathy:

  • Encourage open conversations: Encourage children to ask questions and have open conversations about autism. This creates an environment where children can learn and gain a better understanding of their peers with autism.
  • Promote kindness and understanding: Teach children to be kind and understanding towards others. Help them recognize that everyone has different strengths, challenges, and ways of communicating. Encourage them to be patient and supportive of their peers with autism.
  • Foster inclusive play: Encourage inclusive play where children with and without autism can interact and engage together. This helps build connections and friendships based on understanding and acceptance.

By emphasizing acceptance and empathy, we can create a more inclusive and supportive environment for all children.

Supporting Friends with Autism

Supporting friends with autism is another crucial aspect of embracing differences and inclusion. Here are a few ways we can support our friends with autism:

  • Be patient and understanding: Understand that individuals with autism may have unique ways of communicating and interacting with others. Be patient and accepting of these differences, allowing them the time and space they need to express themselves.
  • Offer support when needed: Offer support to your friends with autism when they need it. This can include helping them navigate social situations, providing reassurance, or offering assistance with specific tasks.
  • Be a friend: Treat your friends with autism just like any other friend. Engage in activities that they enjoy, listen to their thoughts and feelings, and be there for them when they need someone to talk to.

Remember, supporting friends with autism is about being a kind and understanding friend who values and appreciates them for who they are.

By embracing differences and promoting inclusion, we create a world where individuals with autism are accepted, understood, and valued. Let's continue to foster an environment of acceptance, empathy, and support for all children, regardless of their differences.

Resources for Further Learning

Understanding autism is an ongoing journey, and there are numerous resources available to further expand your knowledge and support your child's understanding of autism. Here are two valuable resources that can help you learn more about autism and provide guidance on how to explain it to kids.

Books and Stories about Autism

Books and stories can be powerful tools in helping children understand autism. They provide relatable characters and narratives that facilitate empathy and promote a deeper understanding of autism. Here are some notable books about autism for children:

These books can serve as conversation starters and help children grasp the unique experiences and perspectives of individuals with autism.

Organizations and Support Groups

Connecting with organizations and support groups can provide valuable resources, guidance, and a sense of community for both parents and children. These organizations often offer educational materials, workshops, and support networks. Here are a few notable organizations and support groups dedicated to autism:

  • Autism Society

This organization provides information, advocacy, and support for families affected by autism. They have local chapters that offer support groups, educational events, and other resources.

  • National Autism Association

The NAA is a parent-run nonprofit organization that offers support and advocacy for families affected by autism. They provide resources such as educational materials, safety tools, and support groups.

  • Autism Speaks

This organization is dedicated to promoting solutions for the needs of individuals with autism and their families through advocacy and support. They provide information on autism research, events, and resources.

  • The Arc

The Arc is an advocacy organization that supports individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. They offer information on health care, education, and employment for individuals with autism.

  • Family Support Network

This organization provides support to families of children with special needs, including autism. They offer resources such as community events, support groups, and educational workshops.

These organizations can offer a wealth of information, guidance, and assistance. They also organize events and initiatives aimed at raising awareness and promoting inclusion. Exploring their websites and getting involved in local activities can provide valuable insights and support for both parents and children.

By utilizing books and stories and connecting with organizations and support groups, you can enhance your understanding of autism and help your child navigate their own understanding of autism in a compassionate and informed manner. Remember, the more we learn and embrace differences, the more inclusive and supportive our communities can become.


Should I mention the word "disorder" when explaining autism to a child?

It depends on the age and maturity level of the child. If you think the child can handle it, it's okay to use the word "disorder." However, if you think it may scare or confuse them, it's best to stick with simpler language such as "Autism is a condition that affects how some people think and feel."

How can I explain sensory sensitivities to a child?

You can explain that people with autism may experience things differently than they do. For example, they may be bothered by loud noises or bright lights. You could say something like, "Imagine if your favorite song was playing really loudly and you couldn't turn it down. That's how someone with autism might feel in a noisy environment."

What should I do if the child asks why someone with autism behaves differently?

Explain that everyone is different and unique in their own way. Some people have certain challenges that make certain things harder for them than others. Emphasize that it's important to treat everyone with kindness and respect, no matter how different they may seem.

Should I talk about therapy or medication when explaining autism?

Again, it depends on the age and maturity level of the child. If you think they can handle it, you can briefly mention therapy or medication as options for helping manage symptoms of autism. However, be sure to emphasize that there is nothing wrong with having autism and that everyone deserves love and acceptance regardless of their differences.

What can I do to help the child understand and accept someone with autism?

Encourage the child to learn more about autism through books, movies, or online resources. You can also suggest ways to show kindness and support to people with autism, such as being patient, listening actively, and avoiding making assumptions or judgments based on appearances.


Explaining autism to a child without autism can be challenging, but it's an important part of promoting acceptance and understanding of differences in others. By using simple language, examples, and emphasizing similarities, you can help a child understand what autism is and how it affects people who have it. Remember to be patient and understanding, and encourage the child to ask questions and learn more about autism.