A word of advice from the mom of an autistic child.
As I mentioned in a previous post, Autism awareness has definitely grown in the last few years. People are more clued up and understanding than before. But sometimes well-meaning things can be said that are insensitive. Or assumptions made that are untrue. Below is a list of things I hear often as the mom of an autistic child. And some ways that you could postively rephrase them.
- Everyone is a bit autistic. Most people can’t fathom what it’s like to be autistic. And that includes me. From what I can gather from my children, life can be full of anxiety and emotion and confusion. But it can also be hilarious and fun. All I can do is give them a voice and be their advocate. You could do something similar by listening and observing.
- You shouldn’t have vaccinated your child. We vaccinated our children because we wanted them to not catch diseases or illnesses. Or to spread those nasties to others. As the mom of an autistic child, I can guarantee you that I’ve racked by brain for causes. But it’s not a useful exercise. You could steer away from the conversation of ’causes’ and rather look at their realities.
- They don’t look autistic. Autism is a spectrum. This means that there is no one ‘look’ or way of being. Everyone has their own way of seeing and dealing with the world. You might try looking at the autistic person as an individual. And try and learn about their unique experiences.
- They must be a savant. There is a lot of pressure from the outside when homeschooling. And this is especially true for special needs homeschool. It seems like it’s expected that kids will be college-ready at the age of 11. We decided to homeschool our kids for a number of reasons. And have subsequently discovered that they are not geniuses. It’s the spectrum again. Not all autistic children are like Rain Man. You could rather ask about what the child enjoys, as you would with any mom.
- How do you cope? This is perhaps the most insulting question of all. I cope because they’re my children. And I love them. I cope because I don’t have a choice. And because life is short and should be enjoyed. Parenting is hard for everyone. So rather find something in common in your shared experiences. And leave pity at the door.
If you’re the parent of an autistic child, do you have anything to add? Or if not, did you find anything surprising in my post? Let’s open this conversation and spread even more awareness and acceptance.