10 Things NOT to say to the parent of a child on the spectrum
In my day to day life, generally I don’t mind people. My issues usually stem more from my own litany of social anxieties and self-doubt, but people themselves, I’m generally pretty cool with. I like to think that the average person isn’t a douche and that they really really mean well when they offer uninvited advice. I also really enjoy getting to know people online and in cabs and bars. My friends will tell you I make friends everywhere I go, and the reason is I talk to everyone.
There are a few things that really set me off: a lack of basic respect and overly aggressive behavior. Thankfully, I don’t surround myself with those people and have been lucky to not encounter many outside of the ill conceived trip to Wal*Mart.
There are some behaviors that set my teeth on edge and it’s occurred to me that perhaps it’s because folks just don’t know better. When you first meet my Ninja, you wouldn’t know there’s any reason for me to treat her differently from any other kid her age or that she sees a therapist regularly. It took her teacher until the 3rd quarter of the school year to really understand the depth of her issues. So as a public service to all the well-meaning people out there and for all the other parents who just want to start punching people in the face here is my top 10 list of things NOT to say to parents with kids on the spectrum.
10 – But she doesn’t look autistic.
And you don’t look like a dumbass, but clearly you are.
9 – You know my cousin/niece/neighbor has a kid with autism and she can’t even talk, you are so lucky.
Yes, yes I am lucky. But please don’t assume that just because my hardest day isn’t their hardest day it’s not still hard.
8 – Do you think she might just have ADD?
I just told you what she has. I just told you what the drs and therapists and neurologists and social workers all say. Unilaterally. No, I don’t think she has ADD. And for the record, there’s nothing “just” about having ADD.
7 – She’s no more difficult than any other kid her age. You know they all have something.
They all have personalities. They do NOT all have social and neurological conditions which cause them to see and interact with the world differently from the majority of human beings. They do NOT have to deal with not understanding the rules of the social world they live in. They are neuro-typical children. They are difficult and wonderful and unique. You aren’t making me feel better by diminishing just how much harder this is.
6 – Don’t be so hard on her
Did our therapist call you instead of me by mistake to discuss how to handle her behavior issues? No? Ok, then shut the fuck up.
5 – But she’s so sweet!
Come here, I’d like to punch you in the face. Just once. Can I do that? Then I won’t be sweet and maybe you’ll think I have autism because clearly a child can’t be both wonderful and be on the spectrum.
4 – Doesn’t the school take care of that (her therapy/testing)?
3 – She’d be fine in public school.
Maybe, if public school had 13 kids in the class room and individualized teaching plans (that are actually followed). The public schools laughed at me and told me my autistic 5 year old wasn’t entitled to testing because I was an overbearing parent. The public schools have 30-35 kids in the class room. The public schools are trying to keep the neuro-typical kids on track. There is no time or money or resources for my kid there. Maybe if I didn’t live in PG County. Maybe if there was a magnet school I could get her into. But that’s not possible here, so it’s private school. And no, the public schools don’t help pay for it.
2 – She’ll be fine when she grows up.
How’s that crystal ball doing? Working out ok? Did you win the lottery last week? No? Then shut up. You can tell me all the ways she’s awesome and amazing and how you think those things will help her as an adult. I believe those things too. But in reality none of us have any idea what the next trigger or reaction will be. You don’t and I don’t. All parents worry about their kids and I do think she’ll be fine when she’s older but I don’t get to just sit back and hope that’s true. I have to give her all the skills so that she CAN be fine when she grows up. And that takes a lot of work. You might not mean it this way, but your comment makes it sound like I just have to sit back and wait it out and that’s not the case.
1 – Maybe I can help.
Nope, you can’t. Stop it. Don’t get in the middle of my parenting. Just because she’s screaming for an avocado and you think “what’s the harm in giving the poor kid an avocado” doesn’t mean you should interrupt me trying my hardest to calmly explain the situation to the furious child in the middle of the grocery store in order to hand her an avocado! You have no idea how many avocados I have bought over the last 9 years or why I’m not buying one right now. You have no idea what my reasoning is or if perhaps – gasp – I’m not just being mean, I’m actually trying really really hard to help her learn something very difficult. (you can replace avocado for rock, sticker, lint, baseball, iguana, etc.)