Eleven Things You Should Never Say to a Parent Who Has A Child with Autism
Some people say the dumbest things sometimes, and often they say the cruelest and unkind things too, thinking they are trying to be helpful and positive, but completely missing the mark. If you are a parent with a child on the spectrum, you probably have heard some of these comments below. If you are not a parent with an ASD child, do everyone a favor and not open your mouth to utter any of the following.
“Well, at least he isn’t mentally retarded—some kids with autism are.” Not only is this an insensitive thing to say, but it is also an ignorant thing to say too.
“Wow, I didn’t know she could do that! I didn’t think autistic kids could….(fill in the blank here)”. Really? What DID you think kids with autism could do? Give them more credit where credit is due.
“What did you do wrong during your pregnancy?” This usually comes from someone who assumes it is all our fault that our kids “contracted” autism.
“Did you drop him as an infant?” This one sometimes follows #3, when a much older person who knows nothing about the spectrum asks you.
“You poor thing! Surely you won’t risk it and have any more like that one, will you?” Wow. Just…wow. Parents don’t need your pity, they need your support, and even though autism does seem to run in families, it doesn’t mean all of the children will be “afflicted”.
“Control your brat, lady! He/she is….(destroying the store, having a tantrum and needs to be spanked, etc.)” Um, no, my child is overstimulated and needs to go somewhere nice and quiet for a really long rest period, not be screamed at by you.
“What’s wrong with your kid? Why doesn’t he/she listen or look at me when I’m talking to him/her?” This is when parents with autistic kids stop and correct others by telling them there is nothing “wrong” with their children and then act as advocates for autism by explaining their children’s behavior.
“This is God’s punishment for something you or your partner did.” While the sins of the father may still be visited upon the children, most of us like to think that God doesn’t make mistakes and that our children on the spectrum should be celebrated for all they are capable of, not shamed for what others assume must be the reason for their existence.
“Nobody wants to play with your kid because he/she is weird.” There are too many viral stories out there of parents who refused to let their children play with an autistic child or attend an ASD child’s birthday party. That’s just sad, and more sad for those that think and utter this because they can’t see that having their children spend time with an autistic child would teach their own children more compassion and provide them with greater understanding and less fear.
“What are you going to do with him/her when he/she grows up? Do they still put autistic people in a county hospital/asylum?” Overtly nosy people tend to ask this because they wonder if you are going to have a Boo Radley living with you until you die, or if you will send your adult child on the spectrum away to some place where he/she won’t hurt anyone (as if he or she would).
“Autism? How do you get that?” Unless this person has been living under a rock since the sixties, you probably won’t hear this, but parents who do use it as an opportunity to share their knowledge about what autism is and isn’t.
Divorce is hard on kids, but much more so for kids with ASD because they cannot process why Mommy and Daddy won’t live in the same house anymore. Since they already have a difficult time with social interaction and personal relationships, it becomes especially confusing to the ASD child when parents split. If parents are not careful about making custody and placement decisions, the ASD child will suffer more than usual during and after a divorce.
More and more judges and lawyers are becoming familiar with autism and autism spectrum disorders. They are recognizing the impact it has on children who need consistency and stability in their lives in order to feel more secure. Parents who fight over where their child with ASD is going to live are actually jeopardizing that child’s sense of security. The ASD child will begin to lash out, become aggressive and stressed, be emotionally charged and have more frequent meltdowns. To them, their whole world is falling apart and now they are expected to go to Daddy’s on certain days and times and live with Mommy the rest of the time, or vice versa. Although this isn’t the best option already for kids who are not on the spectrum, it is the worst for kids who are.
If you, as a parent, are going through a divorce and are worried about your child with ASD, you need to fight really hard to keep your child living in one location to maintain consistency. That is not to say you should deny your ex of his or her rights to see your child, but instead offer liberal visitation and shared custody. Primary physical placement with one parent is the ideal situation for these children, but they need both parents in order to continue growing socially and emotionally. This is a very difficult thing to do, since some parents are quite insistent that children should split their time and living quarters between parents, but it isn’t a suitable option for kids on the spectrum, especially those who are high-functioning enough to understand some of what is going on.
If you are having difficulties with custody issues and your soon-to-be-ex, make sure you hire a lawyer who has experience with disability cases who can also schedule a hearing with a judge who is equally experienced and familiar with autism and ASD. Whatever your ex’s argument is regarding physical custody, the judge should be able to persuade him or her that it may not be in your ASD child’s best interests to toss him or her to and fro between two residences. Also, if you can prove that your child does not adapt well to change and has issues with transitioning between homes and transitioning in and out of other locations and situations, that may help solidify your case to keep your child in one home or the other consistently.
A young man with autism has been denied a heart transplant. The doctors refused to even put him on the waiting list.
Was he an abuser of drugs? No.
Was he an alcoholic? No.
Was he a rapist, murderer or some other lowlife criminal? Again, no.
His only “crime” is that he is an adult living with autism, and doing all he can to function in the real world. Yes that’s real story for Paul from Pottsville, PA.
His mother, Karen Corby has posted a plea on Change.org. The petition needs supporters to sign so that she can overturn the doctor’s seemingly prejudicial decision to not put her son on the heart transplant wait list,. Petitions need signatures to succeed, and this young man needs the petition to have just a chance at a longer life. He’s high functioning enough that he writes books for teens, but that isn’t enough of an excuse. The doctors say he needs to be more and his mental deficit disallows him to be a candidate for heart surgery.
Do we know all the medical details? No, but given that the number of children in this world growing up with autism might one day be in the same position, shouldn’t it be our duty to remind doctors that they are people too?