5 Things Not To Say to Families with Autism Child
People don’t know what to tell Autism parents.
Almost all well-meaning people around us; friends, colleagues, neighbours, and even family members alike, had doubted our son’s autism diagnosis at one point in time. We know people have our best interest at heart and meant well, and we still love them; it just goes to show how severely lacking awareness on autism is within our society.
In spirit of spreading awareness, I would like to share 4 common comments that we had received that were less thoughtful. Please do not repeat them to another family with a child on the spectrum!
Comment #1: “Nah… Are you sure? I really don’t think he looks Autistic!”
Autism diagnosis is something very personal to families. If I’m not sure, I wouldn’t be sharing such a personal stuff to people especially if you’re considered within our close circle. You’d be surprised how many people actually questioned and pooh-pooh’ed us when we decided to talk more about it. We are the ones raising our child 24/7 and you have another person with a 5-10mins “observation” concluding that we were wrong. Yes, it was difficult for us to digest too but we feel that perhaps they meant well and merely wanted to make us feel better. Although it’s definitely not a helpful comment.
Comment #2: “I know a John Doe that has speech delay too and he is fine now. Boys are always slower”
This one is quite similar to previous comment. Many people attempted to downplay our worries when we first suspected something amiss with our son. We kept hearing that “boys are slower” so much that it made us doubt our own suspicions – and we wish we hadn’t listen to them as we wasted close to a full year not doing any early interventions that could have helped our child cope better! Time is precious especially for children suspected with autism this young. You certainly would not want to be the cause of someone else’s delayed intervention, rather if any parents have suspicions that something isn’t right with their child, the right thing to do is to encourage them to seek professional help without delay!
Autism is not a parenting issue.
Comment #3: “You should talk more to him! Maybe he isn’t learning because you guys aren’t talking to him.”
This one would top the annoying comment list if there is one! Especially when people are clueless to how hard we have worked to help his speech. Basically people are pointing fingers at us parents for his lack of speech. This falls down to pure ignorance on what autism really is. Autism is absolutely not a parenting issue period. Kids on the spectrum exhibit challenging behaviors caused by difficulty in processing sensory inputs from their environment. It’s just a lazy and inconsiderate to blame parents as the cause of the challenging behaviors.
Comment #4: “You think too much. You worry too much. You are looking down on your child”
First of all, it is a motherly instinct to worry about our offsprings. Secondly, if there were zero concerns, we would not have felt compelled to take actions to seek help. Denial would do nothing other than sabotaging our on child’s development. It would be totally fine if the child turns out fine and neurotypical. But what if that specific child is really on the spectrum but denied all the help and interventions that would have assisted his developmental progress? So… telling a parent not to worry is really unhelpful.
Comment #5: “No need to do any treatments. This Jane Doe across the road never did anything and she is okay now!”
Just like every child is different, every child’s autism is different to their severity. Needless to say, each child responds differently to different type of treatments/therapies. Just because you know someone who turns out positively or even recovered (which is rare), you can never tell an autism parent to do nothing for their child with autism. Rather, encourage them to take action. Give them support to face the long journey ahead. Every little second of therapy counts especially early on in their childhood.
If you like this post, I’ve also covered in another 6 Things To Say To Families Dealing With Autism that are kind, supportive and thoughtful. That’s all, folks – feel free to share this if you find it any useful 🙂