Erin Human is an Autistic artist and married mother of two who creates infographics and neurodiversity-themed designs. She sells work on Redbubble in addition to working as the Art Director for the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network (AWN). She has created a wonderful illustrated guide on making friends and getting along with people who are different. A description of the guide is reprinted here with her permission. The full guide is also accessible in our resources section.
Issues of social inclusion are often persistent throughout a disabled person’s lifespan. Lack of inclusion can be a vicious cycle if non-disabled people are unfamiliar with how to include and interact with disabled people in their community:
1. disabled people are excluded, are segregated to disabled-only spaces, and/or withdraw from community life when they are socially rejected
2. non-disabled people continue to have social spaces and groups that have no disabled people in them, and they never become familiar or intimately connected with disabled people
3. disabled people continue to be rejected or excluded by non-disabled people who are unfamiliar with how to include us
How do we break this cycle? Traditionally, most of the onus has been on disabled people to assimilate and “normalize,” but this not only doesn’t work well, it’s unfair and ableist. Mainstream culture is beginning to realize that non-disabled need to do more to include us without trying to “fix” us, but it’s crucial to understand that acceptance is more than just a feeling. It’s a series of actions, and for most it will require some learning and listening to disabled people.
I have a dream that parents of non-disabled children will begin to talk to their kids about disability, as early and as often as possible. Just as with other issues of discrimination, it’s not enough to trust that your kids will be “nice” – even nice, lovely, kind hearted children may discriminate against or exclude disabled children if they simply do not know how to include them, and don’t understand people who are different from themselves in ways that a child can easily perceive.
This guide is a start. Please please share it with your kids and talk to them about what disability inclusion means. It’s not about pity or charity, it’s about equality.
Infographic cover has the title “Social Skills for Everyone,” subtitle “making friends and getting along.” Above the title are two human figures, one waving their arms with a speech bubble saying “hi!” and the other with arms akimbo and a speech bubble containing ellipses.
Infographic text says: “You might have noticed… there are all kinds of people in the world. no two are exactly alike. Not even twins! You probably won’t be friends with everyone you meet (and that’s ok!) but learning to get along with people makes life a little better for all of us.” One group of human figures is multicolored, with a green figure waving and saying “hello!” A pair of orange figures who look the same as each other stand side by side, one saying “I love drawing comic books” and the other saying “I don’t draw. But I love Minecraft!”
Infographic text says: “There isn’t only one “right way” to socialize… Just like there isn’t only one way to play! Everyone has their own style – figure adds, ‘and I think that’s cool!’– and learning someone else’s style is how you include someone new – figure adds, ‘and hey, remember… next time, the new person… could be you!’” Bottom image shows a green figure standing in foreground holding/touching their own head, with other figures in the background playing and one waving in greeting to the green new person.
Infographic text says: “When you meet someone new… it’s nice to greet them and ever nicer to invite them to talk or play with you.” Image shows two human figures in foreground and two more playing in the background. A green figure waves and says to the orange figure, ‘Hi, I’m Alex. Do you want to play tag with us?’ More text: “but what if they don’t answer?” The green figure stands with a question mark thought bubble, while the orange figure touches/holds their own head and stands with a thought bubble containing ellipses.
Infographic text says: “It might NOT mean they don’t want to play. Try this! Wait a few more seconds – some people just need a little more time to answer questions or think of what to say.” Orange figure has a speech bubble that says ‘…………okay!’ “Move so they can see your face – some people need to read your lips while you talk.” Two green heads in profile face each other, one with sound waves around mouth. “Ask in a different way –if they aren’t sure how to answer, using different words might help.” Green figure points to the side and says to orange figure, ‘He’s “it.” Let’s run!’ “Or maybe just try again later. They might not be ready to join in yet, and that’s okay too!
Infographic text says: “Some people do not speak at all (or not very much) but you can still include them! People who don’t speak communicate in other ways, like: Body Language! (orange figure in a variety of poses/gestures), using their voice in other ways (orange laughing face with speech bubble ‘hahaha!’) or even using an app on a tablet!(orange figure holds a black tablet which has a dialog box saying ‘okay. let’s play!’)
Infographic text says: “When you meet someone who seems different, you might notice that they look, talk, or act differently than anyone else you’ve met before.” A green figure stands touching/holding their own head with a question mark thought bubble. “It’s okay to ask polite questions.” A green figure asks, ‘Does that hurt?’ to an orange figure with a small red mark on their face, who responds, ‘No. It’s just a birthmark.’ More text: “It’s good to celebrate our differences AND remember we aren’t all that different on the inside – we all pretty much want the same things: to be accepted, to feel we belong, and to have fun doing things we enjoy.” At the bottom is a row of human figures: a green one with arms akimbo, orange one with heart-shaped birthmark, gray one waving arms, green one with headphones high-fiving a gray one with an orange wheelchair.