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10 Things Not to Say to an Autism Parent

The majority of people know someone who has a child with the autism. A lot of them were in those people’s lives when they received the diagnosis. When people are put in a new and uncomfortable situation, weird things start to happen. Some people call it “diarrhea of the mouth”. Stuff just starts pouring out because the only thing worse than saying the wrong thing is the awkward silence that is created by saying absolutely nothing! Most autism parents fail to understand that people tend to say incredibly inappropriate things with very good intentions. They don’t have the slightest idea that they’re saying all the wrong things. So here are 10 things you should never say to a parent who has a child with autism.

1. I'm sorry—it must be so hard

Autism parents already know how difficult autism can be, but not just for them. They see the struggles their child goes through, and that's where the real difficulties lie. Most parents of children on the spectrum don't want sympathy. Instead, they want to know that others won't turn away from them when they need them the most. They may need a shoulder to cry on, or a friend to give them a few minutes to get comfortable and breathe to reduce stress.

2. Do you think your kid was misdiagnosed?

Just because someone reads a few paragraphs about autism, they instantly think they’re an expert, and then have the audacity to question the diagnosis made by a physician with 40 years of experience making these diagnoses. That is just not right and it’s better to say nothing, than to question the disease.

3. I know someone with autism, so I understand

Outsiders to autism often believe that autistic individuals are very similar, or exhibit similar behaviors. However, as most people on the planet, will tell you, there is no set standard for what autism looks like. Maureen Lacert, a behavior analyst, special education teacher, and Director of Nashoba Learning Group, told, "If you know one person with autism, you know one person with autism. And, it stops there.

4. But your child doesn’t even look autistic!

Autism doesn’t have a particular “look.” It comes in every shape, size, age, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status. People should just leave it at that.

5. I think you’re wrong about her being Autistic.

Yes, you’re right. Even though someone’s child was diagnosed by two qualified professionals (A behavioral psychologist and a Speech Language Pathologist), has an IPP in place at school, receives assistance from an EA during school, and is receiving additional support and funding through government agencies, he or she shouldn’t have her diagnosis.

6. My child has meltdowns too, that’s a normal part of toddler/childhood.

Um, temper tantrums are normal yes. Meltdowns are COMPLETELY different. There is a huge difference between temper tantrums and a full scale Autism meltdown.

7. Are you going to have more kids?

It is one thing to ask this question because you’re truly curious. It is an entirely different thing to ask because you think us having an autistic child has changed our mind about having more kids. We can tell when someone asks this question with the negative undertones.

8. Maybe if you discipline your child, he won’t act like that.

Many people think that children with autism should be disciplined better. Totally wrong. Children with autism have their own ways of behavior and nobody should make them do something they don’t want to do.

9. Do you think she will grow out of it?

Autism is a condition present at birth. It doesn’t spontaneously develop or spontaneously go away.

10. She is going to be just fine.

As much as it is nice to say something like this, be careful when saying it. It’s tough on the parents to deal with this and there are probably some other ways to offer comfort.

Try to be more aware of how your well-meaning words can be misconstrued. If you can’t find the right words to say, it’s ok to say nothing. Just be present for the person in your life who really needs you to just be there.