I have found myself in several situations that in a conversation with people with good intentions had no idea how offensive their comments or questions were. It can be an awkward situation if you meet an autism parent and don’t know what to say. So I’ll share a few of the things I suggest not to say.
1. He doesn’t look like he has autism. He looks normal.
Of course he looks normal. He is normal but no he’s not typical. Kids who have autism don’t have specific look to them. Just say you have a handsome son.
2. What is his special gift? What can he do? Is he like Rainman?
There is a misconception that just because you have autism that you must have special abilities. While this is true for some with autism it is not true for all of them. You could say what kind of things does your son enjoy doing?
3. What do you think caused it? Was he vaccinated?
We don’t know what caused it and neither does the medical community yet so don’t ask that. And before you ask the vaccination question you should brace yourself for a good smack on the head. I don’t believe vaccinations were the cause and if you looked into the physician that years ago said that they did cause it you’ll see that all of his research was fabricated and he lost his medical license. So again I don’t know what caused it but I can’t change it. All I can do now is do my best to get him the best therapy and support he needs to be successful.
4. Have you tried changing his diet?
Some children with autism are VERY picky eaters. In our case Noah has less than 10 foods that he will eat. So tell me more about your suggestion to only cook one meal and that that he’ll eat when he’s hungry. Yeah…no. He’d rather starve. You can try the starvation method on your own child but what I’ll do is offer new foods and encourage him to try them but I will not force him to eat new foods. I’ve learned to pick my battles.
5. My child has meltdowns too. Have you tried disciplining him or being more strict?
Please do not compare your child’s temper tantrum to an autism meltdown. These two things are not the same in the least. When my child is having a meltdown and doesn’t have the words to tell me what is wrong. He can’t tell me what I can do to help him. It is one of the most helpless feelings an autism parent has. So no I can’t try discipline. I can’t spank the autism out of him. What I can do is utilize the tools I’ve been given by his therapist to notice the signs of a meltdown coming on and try to prevent scenarios that can cause a meltdown.
6. I read this article on autism and I think you should try…
This is a tough one. I have done countless hours of research concerning autism. I actually get regular emails from organizations that are doing on going research about autism. I can assure you that I am well educated and up to date on the latest information. I am always willing to read an article with a new point of view. So in this case instead of giving your recommendations based on the article you should probably just say I read an interesting article about autism, can I share it with you?
7. I’m so sorry.
I have said this in previous posts but I’ll say it again. PLEASE don’t feel sorry for me, I don’t feel sorry for me. Most days are wonderful. Noah is a blessing. He has changed the way I see the world. I only post about our autism journey to help bring awareness not to seek your pity.
I hope that if you find yourself in a situation where you are talking to an autism parent that you’ll remember the things NOT to say.