There are a lot of misconceptions about autism, particularly when it comes to young children on the spectrum.
In honor of Autism Awareness Month, we asked members of the HuffPost Parents Facebook community to share what they wished people understood about autism spectrum disorder.
Here’s what parents of kids with autism want the world to know.
Our kids have feelings.
“My daughter can hear and see how you treat her. Being nonverbal doesn’t equate to being less. She is a human with feelings and emotions like you and me.” ― Victoria Rusay
“Even children who don’t speak can still hear you. Don’t talk to me over my children like they aren’t there, especially if you’re going to sympathetically tell me what a saint I am for dealing with a horrible situation every day. I’m not a saint. I’m their mother. And she HEARS YOU and understands that you’re saying she’s a burden to me.” ― Kelly Cobb Dyer
Autism is not the same for everyone.
“One person with autism is just one person with autism. Autism isn’t the same for every person with that diagnosis.” ― Wendy Pitoniak
“Every person is different. Please don’t underestimate my kid because of something you’ve heard or read.” ― Jennie Carlsten
“If you’ve met one person with autism, you have only met one person with autism. It is not a disease nor a mental illness, so it will be different in every person who is on the spectrum.” ― LyndsayJeanne Gentry
“Little girls can have it, too, and it doesn’t manifest the same way in everyone. It’s a huge wide spectrum of different people who all just want to be treated kindly, with respect, and sometimes, like in the case of my 5-year-old, need a bit of extra patience. No amount of spanking, yelling or corner time is going to ‘make her behave.’” ― Alicia Marie Vanwhy
We don’t need your pity.
“I have two autistic children. When people find that out, they drop an apology. Don’t. Autism doesn’t make them something to pity. The pity should be placed on those who’s misconception of them builds a world inaccessible to them. The world should change for neurodivergent folks, not neurotypicals. They aren’t hot sauce to be labeled, and they aren’t something to be cured. They are writing books, blogs and speaking in whatever method they can access, and we need to be listening instead of making decisions for them. It’s 2018, not 1950. We need to shift our social perception of disabilities as something heartbreaking, tragic, etc. I’m certainly not a ‘warrior’ because I do what I need to for them. I’m their mother. The community is speaking, and we need to be listening to them.” ― Sophie Vera
“When I explain that my son has ASD, don’t look at me like it’s a burden or that it ‘must be tough.’ He is very intelligent, smart and quiet. And there are days where everything is a challenge for him, but we always get through it. ASD doesn’t make him incapable of anything, it’s the surrounding world incapable of understanding him. His brain works much harder and faster than the average brain.” ― Holly Nykole Luciano
Our schedules are difficult.
“We can’t be spontaneous with plans. And even the most well-laid plan is no guarantee that we’ll see it to end.” ― Sylvia Tramel
“When we can’t juggle all the demands on us, it’s not like ‘normal’ families who have to mange busy schedules. It is in a league of its own. Unless you have had a special needs child, you can never understand how much is put on us.” ― Shayze Cashmere
Our kids need patience and understanding.
“My child is very intelligent. He can figure things out but sometimes it just takes him a little longer.” ― Bob Chappell
“Even though my daughter is nonverbal, she is the most empathetic little girl I know, and if people gave her the time of day, she would communicate in ways that would blow your mind. She’s so amazingly smart, funny and loving.” ― LyndsayJeanne Gentry
“That they see the world with every cell in their body. They feel every emotion all at once sometimes. Be patient because their hearts are the most genuine.” ― Bradley Anabell Tommy Beahan
Communication can be really hard.
“They aren’t being ‘rude’ or ‘mean.’ Sometimes, they cannot express themselves like others.” ― Janna Bauernfeind
“People say my son’s outbursts are ‘for no reason.’ But there’s a big reason for him. He’s nonverbal. Wouldn’t you get mad if you weren’t able to say what you want or feel?!” ― Danika Beek
We’re not looking for a ‘cure.’
“Essential oils, chakra alignments and full moon dances won’t cure or ‘recover’ (gag) my kids. If a child was ‘cured,’ they weren’t autistic. And as a former medical professional, I still will get them vaccinated because that has nothing to do with them being autistic.” ― Sophie Vera
Our kids are smart.
“Having autism doesn’t mean a child ‘isn’t smart.’ Whenever we tell someone new and uneducated about the topic that our son has autism, a typical response is ‘but he seems so smart!’ Well, he is so smart. A lot, if not most, kids with autism are at or above average IQ. They may not always choose to share what they know or can do with you, though.” ― Casey Chapman
They want friends, too.
“This child wants friends just like your children do. He may say and do things that are different, but they are a part of him. This child is funny and caring and sweet and thoughtful and athletic and stubborn and so much more than ‘autistic.’ That this child with quirks and differences will grow into an adult with quirks and differences and will still deserve your understanding even when you think he should grow out of it.” ― Elizabeth Ann Garrison
“A lot of people with autism, my son included, are very well aware that they’re different. You don’t need to ignore or hide it from them. Just be freaking accepting that everyone in this world is different, and try to get to know people.” ― Sabrina Soros Kareha
There’s a lot of unseen work.
“Just because something seems to go off easily doesn’t mean it was easy for them. There are hours upon hours of unseen coaching and practice going on behind the scenes that you don’t see that made something look ‘easy.’” ― Casey Chapman
“Just because he doesn’t ‘look or act’ like he has autism, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have it. It took lots of therapy and work to get him where he is today.” ― Megan Bagwill
“One cannot be ‘cured’ of autism. You see a child who seems like their neurotypical peers and think ‘gee ― you did it ― you cured them!’ No, we did not. That child is working 100 times harder in any given minute to keep up.” ― Diana Korczynski
“To be nice to you, he will have to lash out to me. Being this smiley little boy is hard work for him. That’s why I am exhausted.” ― Céline Marguerite Quentin
It’s not about ‘special treatment.’
“The phrase I like to use is that ‘I don’t necessarily want my son to have special treatment, but I want him to have special consideration.’ Please don’t ask my son to go to a loud, crowded place and expect him to be able to function just like you. Please know that autism is inside him and part of him and it’s unfair to expect him to do what you want just because ‘everyone else can.’ Sometimes little dude physically and mentally CANNOT.” ― Cassandra Murdough
Having a high-functioning child is not ‘lucky.’
“My child is considered high functioning on the spectrum. It kills me that people think that autistic kids who are functioning highly on the spectrum are better off than those who aren’t. It kills me when people say things like ‘you’re lucky,’ ‘at least you don’t have to deal with (insert difficulties)’ or the one I hate the most, ‘it could be worse, right?’ The reality is I don’t feel ‘lucky’ or like my parenting responsibilities or my kid’s strides are lesser because my kid doesn’t fit into this negative image of autism they have accepted as standard. I’d love for others to know that no matter where our kids land on the spectrum we are still moms and dads who love and support every little and large accomplishment our children achieve.” ― Ivory Perkins
We’re doing the best we can.
“I wish that people would learn that hitting them to show them how to be ‘good’ or ‘normal’ isn’t going to work. People see my son having a meltdown and they tell me that if I just discipline him, it would straighten him up. It doesn’t work like that for him. I also wish they would understand that we aren’t ‘spoiling’ him. We know what he likes and sometimes its easier to give him that than not to. If he wants a blue marker, give him one. Choose your battles.” ― Brandy Keller
Some quotes have been edited or condensed for clarity.