As more and more children are diagnosed with autism and a lot of autistic children are joining the mainstream classroom, it is important that we are equipped with a general know-how of how to interact with an autistic child.
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to interact with an autistic child, the first thing you need to remember is that autism does not define the child. Do not label the child and categorize him in a box as this is not who he is. He is a special child with his own unique traits and character. Interact with him based on what you know of him as a child and not based on your perceptions of what you think autism is.
You can approach the child’s parents and try to talk to them regarding their child. Let them know that you want to interact with their child and would like to know how you can best approach their child. Some autistic child are uncomfortable with strangers and a direct approach may not always work. Sometimes what you need to do is to get him to be familiar with you first. You may need to give him some distance first before you can actually play beside him and interact with him. As parents would know how to best approach their child, discussing this with them will help you have a good interaction with their child.
Also find out what their child is interested in. What does their child like to do and what does he like to talk about? Since most autistic children have a particular interest, you can use this to encourage him to interact with you. For example, if you know that he is interested in cars, you may want to offer him to play with cars or to talk to him about cars.
Do not give up if your first encounter with him was not successful. Be patient and try again another day. You need to be willing to give him some time to get familiar with you. Allow him to warm up to you and to get comfortable. Once he gets comfortable with you, you will be able to interact with him more effectively.