You know what they say when you Assume....
It is really difficult to stop yourself from making assumptions. We all do it throughout the day. We assume the car in front of us will go through the green light. We assume the price listed on the product will be the price we are charged. We assume our loved ones will be there for us if we need them to be. These assumptions are beneficial and save time and energy because we don't have to analyze every piece of information as brand new each time we encounter it. I'm an advocate for many assumptions because they free us up to pay attention to other aspects of the environment or a relationship.
However, Assumptions can be a double edged sword for a person with special needs. Others can assume too much and think that a person with ASD understands because they didn't look confused or ask a clarifying question. They can assume that a student remembers common responses and how to execute them in everyday situations. They can assume that a person with special needs will behave in the same way that someone else with the same alphabet soup of diagnosis behaves. A former colleague called it the "look as though" problem. Too often there are students who "look as though" they know what is going on or what to do but really, they are lost.
Of course the other side of the sword is that people can assume that a person with differences cannot understand, participate, or engage. It is so frustrating when I have adults or other children come up to me to ask questions about a student or group that I am with. I see non-special needs people do this to each other all the time and I get frustrated then too. If you want to know something, why wouldn't you start by asking the person you want to know about? Why do you assume that you can't find out except by talking to the group leader? This is an extremely disempowering action. Each time this happens, it adds a drop in the "I can't do it for myself" bucket. It takes the power from the individual and robs them of the chance to learn and adapt for themselves.
Instead, imagine if each time we meet someone new, we have a clean slate of assumptions. Maybe they can speak to us or maybe not but let's ask them first like we would anyone else. Maybe they will get upset or be overwhelmed, but we can't assume that is definitely going to happen.
People with special needs learn invaluable lessons from these interactions. They learn not to assume either. They learn they can't assume that someone else will always manage everything for them or assume that they will always be overwhelmed. Instead, they begin to assume that they will be able to manage what comes their way. They assume they will have strategies for success. They begin to assume that they are competent and empowered human beings and interact with the world accordingly.