Ten things NOT to say to a parent with an autistic child

autism-blocks

 

As parents to two autistic boys we’ve heard some of these and if you are a parent to an autistic child, then you probably have too!

  1. “But he/she looks so… normal?!”
  2. “Are you sure he’s/she’s autistic?”
  3. What do you think caused it?
  4. “Ohhhhh… what can he/she do?”
  5. “Maybe if you just provided him/her with some discipline.”
  6. “I try to talk to him/her, but, he always ignores me. Maybe you should get his/her hearing checked.”
  7. “Maybe he/she just likes to be alone.”
  8. “He’s/she’s not that bad.”
  9. “They’ll eat when they’re hungry.”
  10. “You are so… [insert amazing, brave, strong, inspiring, etc. here].”
  11. “I’m sorry.”
  12. “Will he/she always be like that?”

Okay so there are twelve here, not ten! But good grief don’t these grind your gears!? Let’s tackle them one by one:

“But he/she looks so… normal?!”

What!? Define normal please? I love my boys, they are the apple of my eye. Shut up.

“Are you sure he’s/she’s autistic?”

Yes. Trust me, it took long enough to get the authorities to finally diagnose this. Visit after visit to experts, specialists, Professors and Doctors…..Yes, we’re sure.

What do you think caused it?

We don’t know. We wonder, we question and we agonise over everything we did, everything we ate, and every place we went during pregnancy. We spend countless hours blaming ourselves, the environment, genetics, and so on. But you know what? The cause of our children’s autism isn’t anywhere near as important as what we are doing to support them, and their siblings.

It’d be nice if you could get to that conclusion too please.

“Ohhhhh… what can he/she do?”

Anything they wish to put their minds to, just like any other child. They have autism, they are not super human beings. We accept that there are many misconceptions that all people with autism have some sort of exceptional ability, and although some do, some do not.

So when you ask a parent this, not only does it reinforce that their child is “different” in a neurotypical world, it makes the family feel like the child is “different” in the autistic world. Stop it.

“Maybe if you just provided him/her with some discipline.”

How very dare you! Autism is not caused by poor parenting or a lack of discipline and what you are witnessing is not a temper tantrum. What may look like an “I’m not getting my way” tantrum is a sensory meltdown by a child who cannot tell his parent what is hurting them, how they feel or how you can help. This inability to help our child already feels like a kick to the gut; don’t add to our pain with your ignorance and judgments.

“I try to talk to him/her, but, he/she always ignores me. Maybe you should get his/her hearing checked.”

Oh wow! We never even thought of that!

He/she is not deaf. He/she hears you. He/she sees you. He/she knows you are there. Just like he/she knows when you don’t see them, when you don’t hear them and when you give up on them.

Just because he/she does not speak to you, does not mean he/she isn’t trying to communicate with you.

“Maybe he/she just likes to be alone.”

Sigh.

They may “prefer” to be alone, but, that doesn’t mean they “like” to be alone. Being alone is easier than trying to understand facial expressions, body language and conversations that are difficult to understand. Watching them be alone hurts, having people assume they “like” being alone, and letting them be alone, hurts even more.

“They’ll eat when they’re hungry.”

No. They. Won’t.

Come on! Would you seriously test your own child with this theory? Would you wait him or her out for days and days to see how hungry they get before they will eat what is put in front of them and not the food their sensory system tells them they need?

“You are so… [insert amazing, brave, strong, inspiring, etc. here].”

No we’re not. We’re just two parents who desperately love our children and will do anything to help them have a pain free and purposeful life. What would be amazing would be to have some regular support, help with little things, regularly.

“Will he/she always be like that?”

Will he always have autism? Yes. Will autism always impact their lives in some way? Yes. Will they always see the world a little bit differently? Yes. Will he continue to grow, live, love and find joy while teaching us to see their world? Yes. And that’s why we don’t want you to be sorry. Just supportive.

To learn more about autism visit autism.org.uk

Please take the time to make yourself autism aware. That parent you’re judging needs your support and respect.

 

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