9 Things You Should Never Say to an Autism Parent
When you join the “Special Needs Parent'“ club, things that you never considered normal become an everyday occurrence. Routines are longer & more intricate. However, even the smallest thing like a phrase can trigger a parent like you wouldn’t imagine. Now, there are plenty of people that have said every single one of these phrases to me & they’ve been completely harmless. Sometimes people genuinely don’t understand that what they’ve just sad / asked is completely out of line & insensitive. Like asking why we decided to have more kids after getting a Special Needs Diagnosis.
THAT’S NORMAL FOR THEIR AGE
Parents of a kid with Autism are the ones that see their child struggle through every day, not just the few incidents you’ve probably seen. To an outsider, it can be easy to pass off some of these behaviors as ‘normal’ but again, isolated incidents don’t determine days. For example: Jackson’s lack of verbal communication. I’ve been told NUMEROUS times that Jackson is just a late talker & that’s not the case. When it comes down to it, Jackson has very little verbal communication [we’ve been working with him for almost 2 years & we have 2 phrase] & almost no receptive language [no recall]. When you call out to your 2-3 year old by name, do they respond by either looking or stopping at the very least? Jackson doesn’t.
Instead, ask what are some daily obstacles your family faces with your child’s Autism.
Having a child with Special Needs isn’t something to apologize for. If you say something rude or derogatory, definitely apologize for that. But just because I say “Jackson has Autism”, saying “I’m sorry” isn’t appropriate. It implies that his Autism is wrong or negative & can potentially launch parents into defense mode.
Instead, say something like you can only imagine how stressed & difficult this may be.
I KNOW SOMEONE WHO HAS AUTISM SO I GET IT
Have you heard the phrase “If you know one person with Autism, you know one person with Autism”? It’s an extremely simple statement but explains everything so much. Yes - Autism is a disorder that many people share in common, however, it doesn’t mean they live with it the same. The Spectrum portion of the diagnosis encompasses the broad range of abilities & shortcomings each person has. Long story short, knowing 1 person with Autism doesn’t make you an expert on the disorder.
Instead, say something like I know of someone with Autism & it affects them THIS way. How do it affect your child?
GOD ONLY GIVES YOU WHAT YOU CAN HANDLE
STOP IT! Don’t say this or the “I could never” one either. As a parent, you don’t know you’re capable of until you have no choice. Like in another entry I wrote about why we chose to continue having kids after a SN diagnosis, we love our kids unconditionally. No matter what challenges they present to us, we face it head on. Also, not every SN / Autism parent is like Matt & I. I’ve heard some stories that would make you cry about how parents neglect their SN kid because of their shortcomings & honestly, want nothing to do with them. Breaks my heart!
Instead, don’t even bother bringing religion into this equation.
AUTISM IS SO COMMON NOW
The biggest misconception here is that is that Autism is a trend, which is false. It’s not a ‘made-up’ disease to excuse those with bad behavior. Autism is being more commonly diagnosed due to greater concern & parent staying more informed. Want some numbers? in 2000, the CDC reported that 1 in 150 children were diagnosed with ASD. Now, it’s 1 in 59. & as a personal piece of knowledge, some children actually need the technical label in order to receive proper therapy. It’s messed up but those are the rules.
Instead, mention how you’ve heard more cases are being recognized, rather than making it sound like a fashion trend.
THAT’S WHY I DON’T VACCINATE MY CHILD
Depending on the day, this one will either make me take you out at the knees, actually want to discuss it with you or just simply walk away. Parenting is already a difficult journey in itself & every parent has their own way of doing things. Am I going to tell you something is wrong with your kid because we don’t have the same beliefs or blatantly blame something for the difference? Absolutely not. Why? BECAUSE THAT’S RUDE. I’m well aware of the uproar that “the MMR vaccine causes Autism” & the argument the ridiculous Dr made but let’s just say it again - the results were forged & his medical license was revoked. I’m not going to get in a vaccine vs. non vaccine argument today because I have an entry on why vaccinations didn’t cause Jackson’s Autism, but I will save you chance of embarrassing yourself in front of an Autism Parent by telling you to NEVER say that to us. Ever.
Instead, just don’t bring up vaccinations. Everyone has different beliefs but there’s no need to involve vaccinations.
ARE YOU SURE?
Obtaining an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis isn’t a simple process. It’s requires a licensed professional & a series of tests & observations done over time. To question the diagnosis is not only insulting to parents but also the professionals who have seen the child. This is their area of expertise. Would you want someone to question you in something you’re considered an expert in?
Instead, ask about the diagnosis process so we can have the opportunity to inform you of the work behind it.
THEY WOULDN’T BE PICKY EATERS IF YOU MADE THEM EAT
Food aversions are a real thing, people! Autism or not, people still get hungry! No one would choose to not not eat something because of the way it looks or the texture. Let’s be clear - Autism food aversions aren’t always because they don’t like the way it tastes. Other factors of presentation like the color of it, the shape, the texture, if they’re touching, etc come into play. Developmental delays can impact different kids in different ways & this is where sensory play comes into effect. It’s an entire process of sensory pieces we don’t even consider.
Instead, ask what are their favorite foods & try to make it easier.
THEY DON’T LOOK AUTISTIC
This one honestly makes me question a lot of people because when you think about it, what do they think an Autistic person look like? Are they thinking of someone who is constantly hand flapping, always making weird sounds or has a physical feature that shows they have some sort of disability? Because even though that may be the case with some people, it definitely isn’t all. To say someone doesn’t look Autistic is an extremely odd statement for reason I just cannot dig into because it makes my blood boil, but just know that’s a big no-no to say. Don’t judge people by their appearance.
Instead, say something you admit you don’t know much about Autism & how it presents in people but you’d like to know more.
So that’s my 2 cents on things us Autism Parents aren’t fond of hearing. I know plenty of people have said/asked these to me before & most honestly didn’t even realize it. Just try to take other perspectives into account & be genuine in your questions rather than nosy. We’re usually more than willing to answer questions & educate those around us because it only helps us out. Just don’t be a dick about it :)