When someone becomes ill, loses a loved one or a child, is suffering personal crisis, or has a child with a condition that is assumed to lower a child's "quality of life," many of us tend to say the wrong thing. I've done it. We all do. So, here are seven things you should never tell the parent of a child with Autism. Let's talk about it!
1. What kind of life____?
Dont. Just, dont! I'm not saying that parents won't ask themselves the related questions. They will. They do. But, it's part of the process we go through to come to the only conclusion there is; it's not up to us to decide. That means, it's really not up to you, to even mention that. Our job as parents of children with Autism (and all children) is to focus on helping them be as happy as they can be. Whether a child talks or doesn't, attends a Special Day Class or a general education class, wears diapers as a teen or is potty trained by the age of two, none of it necessarily speaks to their quality of life.
2. I'm Sorry.
Stop. What are you sorry about? You're sorry our child has Autism? We're not. I mean, we learn not to be. Autism is not a death sentence. This is important. Hear this. People with Autism don't need your pity. They need your support and understanding! They are not burdened. They are challenged. Have you ever succeeded at a very challenging task? Sweet, right?! Every challenge a child with Autism faces and overcomes is a sweet victory!
3. Well, even typical kids____.
Wash your mouth out with soap! No one wants to hear that. It's kind of insulting. We already know that typical kids have tantrums, too. We already know that typical kids are sometimes set in their ways, shy away from others, lack eye contact, have ritualistic habits. We know. Really, we do! A typical child might exhibit all the behaviors of a child with Autism. Consider though, that there is a reason the typical child doesn't have a diagnosis of Autism. There is a difference in frequency, intensity, duration, motivation, cause of onset, etc. between the "like-behaviors" of children with Autism and those without. It's really not the same.
4. She seems fine to me!
This is a risky statement. You might come across parents who are somehow flattered by the remark. You could also be sticking a sharp pointed word-knife right into the heart and soul of a parent who spends endless days and nights fighting for their children's rights, against an army of people making the same uninformed and insensitive claim, as if to say; "nah, you're crazy, I don't see it!" (even though highly educated and trained doctors have repeatedly made the diagnosis.) With those five little words, it's as if you undermine it all. Take me, for example, sitting here in the middle of the night, with dried tear stains all over my face, digging into the depths of my being, trying to find the strength to subdue my anger and the ability to articulate it in a way that isn't counter-productive. At this moment, I would not be at all receptive to the comment. It's not your fault. You probably have the best intentions. This is what you need to understand. Often, our emotions are raw. We don't see our kids as little Autistic creatures. We look at them as beautiful children, the loves of our lives, who also have Autism. Yet, we are constantly forced to prove that they are not fine, in order to ensure that they have the same chances at an appropriate education as any typical child.
5. Did you hear about___?
What's that you say? Oh, the vaccines, that gluten, the sugar, and that newest article. Yea, we heard about it. Or, maybe, we didn't. Think about what you are really asking (implying) when you say these words. Do you think that if we hurry up and read it, we might cure our children? Do you think that if we read somewhere that immunizations are suspected to cause Autism, that we might spare any future children we might have from getting Autism, too? Do you think that we are out of the loop? What we really need to do is stop reading those headliner articles. Don't just tell us about the things that you hear. Ask us what we think. After all, we are living it, every day. Sure, we do hope for the cure (as people love to call it). Mostly, we just want those people who want to fix everyone (our children) to look in the mirror, and maybe fix themselves first. Sure, even some parents of a child with Autism are waiting for someone to just fix their poor kid. Well, they're ignorant, too! Our kids are NOT "broken!"
6. Have you tried or thought about ___?
Yes. I'm swear-on-all-things-sacred, serious! Yes. We. Have.
7. Does she still have Autism?
Are you still having bowel movements through your mouth? All I hear is crap! Wait, unless you're seven. If you're seven - sorry, I've overreacted. My husband was born here, lived in Mexico most of his childhood, then came back here to the United States. He comes from generations of Mexicans. Of course, he's an "American Citizen." So, is he still Mexican? Or, was his ethnicity completely erased upon being born in the US? Think of Autism as one's roots. We can change where we are, what we do, who we're with, what we know, and how we act, but not who we are. So, tell me. Does she still have Autism?
It's okay to talk about it. Let's keep the conversation going! Are you surprised by anything on this list? Is there something you might add to it? Share your thoughts in the comments.