13 Ridiculous Things Not Quite Appropriate to Say to an Autistic Child
Autism is not easy to live with, but that does not mean that gives the world a carte blanche to say what they wish. Many statements, said out of ignorance or even trying to mean well, can be extremely hurtful. It is important for people to realize that certain exclamations, questions and general expectations are utterly silly and quite inappropriate to utter in the presence of an autistic individual, whether child or adult.
Facts about autism:
- Autism is mostly a genetic disorder
- It hits 1 out of ever 88 children
- Autism is 4x more likely to occur in male versus female children
- There are different classifications to autism that have been combined under the latest DSM-V
- Living in the suburbs or countryside can reduce risk of autism
- Keeping a steady weight during pregnancy can reduce the risks of autism
- Autistic children can sometimes get their senses mixed up and taste colors, smell written words, etc.
Autism can make things hard in a family. Husband and wife might fight a lot more than they used to. Siblings might feel slighted. Bullying can become a major issue to deal with. Stress can become the norm. The little things in life, however, will make one jump for joy and scream with glee.
Parents with autistic children often need advice on how to:
- Toilet train their children
- Make weighted blankets to help their children sleep
- Generally help give their children a good night's sleep
- Find proper role models for their children
- Help their children learn to speak or simply communicate
What they do NOT need is silly, ignorant and downright derogatory comments. They do not need their children maligned or seen differently (with a negative light) from the rest.
What you shouldn't say to an autistic child:
- Stranger coming up and saying "I have seen Rain Man". Wait, what? Not all children are like a blockbuster sensation...
- "Are you actually autistic or do you just have Asperger's Syndrome?" What are they thinking? Last I checked, Asperger's was most definitely on the spectrum and has now been absorbed into Autism Spectrum Disorder within the new DSM-V.
- "You must be very high functioning." I believe that is meant as a compliment, actually. This stranger needs to be educated on the fact that autistic children do not need to be very high-functioning to be smartest in their class.
- "Why are you doing that?" or "That looks so weird!" are probably some of the most ignorant statements autistic children hear. They feel like it, they enjoy it, they find it quite normal for themselves? Many reasons pop up which are exactly what a regular child would say. Everyone is different. People need to learn how to accept that.
- Stranger pointing to a body language book and saying, "I think this book can really help you..." Seriously? Maybe the stranger does not realize that autistic individuals perceive faces and body language differently and might not notice certain subtle messages sent through non-verbal means.
- "You are autistic? I am so sorry! That makes me so sad." That statement leaves me flabbergasted, let alone an autistic child. I'm pretty sure I can think of quite a few obscene responses to this one. It is quite sad that the individual has no clue what autism is all about. Quite a few geniuses out there are actually autistic savants. Anyone from Beethoven to Einstein to Bill Gates is believed to be an autistic savant, and always for a reason.
- "But you look so normal." "I never would have guessed." "But there is nothing wrong with you." Last I checked, autistic children were not aliens. They look quite normal, mostly act like the average population and have few behavioral signs for the most part that gives away their disorder. So no, there is nothing wrong with them, simply something different.
- Certain professionals staring at you with a fake smile and saying, "you cannot expect us to accommodate ALL of your needs." Wait, what? So you are allowed to pick and choose what needs you accommodate? I might need dim lights and few sensory distractions. My normal functioning friend might need a wheelchair to get into the building. Will you only accommodate one of us because that one has a physical disability?
- "You are autistic? Give me a hug, it is going to be okay..." and then, "what do you mean you do not want a hug?" First, you did not just find out I have cancer. Of course, I am okay. I was born with a disability or ability, depending on how you define it, that makes me stand out from the rest. That makes me special. Special people do not receive hugs from average people. Or maybe it is because I do not like hugs. Not everyone does, it is not just a trait reserved for autistic children.
- Strangers mentioning a study they read that might or might not be true about the cause for autism. Parents might want to know what caused it and children might sequester themselves in libraries or in front of a computer searching for it, but hearing a stranger say it is like a slap in the face. No one knows what causes autism. There is no cure for autism. It is not fun hearing a stranger who is not your psychotherapist psychoanalyze your situation.
- Strangers asking if you have tried this or that to cure the autism. Once again, there is no cure. There are only techniques one can use to lessen the meltdowns, help the children integrate into society and get a good night's sleep. Anyone but one's parents and therapists suggesting they try something new is generally unwelcome. Point is, what is being advised to do has probably already been tried ten times over.
- "Stop making excuses to be rude to people." Each case is different and they might not realize they are being rude in the first place.
- "But, you have a job!" Yes, autistic people can work. They may have a selected pool to choose from, wider or narrower depending on the individual, but they can create a career.
Autistic children are just like the average normal functioning child. They have feelings, they like friends and they want to be loved just like anyone. They may need certain accommodations, like weighted blankets in school and at home, but to have autism simply means one is different and not less; it is about time the world learned to accept that simple fact.