Wow! 50 things you should not say to autism parents went viral this week getting over 10,000 views in 48 hours. Thank you to everyone who read it and shared it!
I received many comments wondering when I was going to post 50 things you should say to autism parents like I promised. Here is one comment that I think sums up how many people feel “I do not have autistic children. Most of the things on this list sound horrible. Some of the things I think are people trying to make conversation and simply understand your world better. How about creating another list of things you'd prefer to hear people say? Some people such as myself are often afraid to say anything at all about kids who they know have autism for fear of saying something that might be taken the wrong way. Thank you.” – Anonymous
Thank you for asking. The fact that you ask shows you are heads and tails above many of the people we talk to about autism on a day to day basis. Autism parents really do want to talk about our children and about autism, most of us live to be on our autism soap box and raise awareness. But it can be a touchy subject for us too. So before I go into the list let me give you four basic rules of thumb to remember when talking to autism parents:
1 – Remember, if you’ve met one person with autism – you’ve met ONE person with autism
2 – Do not assume anything; you’ll be wrong 99% of the time.
3 – Remember that most of the time we are looking for a listening ear, not someone to solve our problems.
4 – Please ask us questions about autism, we want to talk about it and spread autism awareness.
So here it is, in random order, 50 things you should say to autism parents.
- How can I help?
- That must be really difficult.
- I think she is beautiful.
- How can I help stop bullying?
- Please don’t feel embarrassed, we understand.
- I know you are working around her routine, special diet, sensory needs, therapy, etc. so what works for you?
- You’re a great parent.
- Have I ever hurt your feelings talking about autism? I'm sorry. Please help me understand.
- "Hi _________ (child's name) how are you?" - Talk to the person with autism, not around them.
- No need to apologize, I understand.
- Can I help you with your other kids while you help your son?
- Can you teach me some ways to work with her?
- Wow, I can see why that might be a small thing for the typical kid, but for your son that is huge. Congrats!
- I admire how much work you've done with him.
- Follow your mother’s intuition.
- Can I join your Autism Speaks walk team?
- He is so smart.
- You know your child better than anyone, including: doctors, therapist, teachers, aides, etc.
- What’s the best way for my child to play with yours? I'm sure they will be great friends once they get to know each other.
- How should I explain autism to my kids?
- Let me be a shoulder to cry on. You’re a good mom, especially on your hardest days!
- Don't say anything. Sometimes a hug is all we need.
- How can I help your daughter feel more comfortable?
- She is uniquely wonderful!
- I understand parenting a child with autism can be completely different from parenting the typical child.
- She has made so much progress.
- His IEP is really working. I'm glad I've been sticking to it.
- I know it is hard for you to find a sitter, so how about we come over to your house after bedtime for some adult time.
- I don’t care if your kid turns the lights on and off a billion times, is obsessed with our washing machine, or ________ (insert random behavior here), he is welcome here any day.
- Who cares if she has a pacifier/blanket/stuffed animal/etc. It makes her feel more comfortable. That's all that matters.
- Hey, I think clothes are annoying too.
- We know he is a good boy, this is an overwhelming situation.
- Let's get your son a buddy/aide so he can participate too.
- "Normal" is overrated.
- I’m glad your family goes out in public! You need to live your life to the fullest too.
- Tell me about autism.
- Does your son have any diet restrictions?
- What therapy and treatments have worked for your son?
- I was thinking of you. I don't know much about autism and all you go through, but I know a good diet coke (or glass of wine) helps! - Here, enjoy!
- How well does the school accommodate your daughter?
- It's not your fault.
- I think __________ (insert child’s obsession here) is pretty cool too.
- Do you need a babysitter? Because I'd love to help.
- Let me hold that/watch them for you while you run after him.
- I know that every child with autism is different, tell me about yours.
- I’ve heard kids with autism are the hardest to potty train.
- What should I do to prepare for your visit? Is there anything I should put away or details I should know?
- I know you just want someone to talk to. So I will listen without trying to solve your problems.
- Really? Insurance companies don’t cover autism? I’m going to write my legislator tonight to change that!
- I want to talk to you about autism and I want to make sure I'm sensitive to your feelings. If I say anything that upsets you please let me know so I can understand your perspective.
Again, special thanks to my facebook friends who helped me come up with this list: Stephanie R., Amanda P., Andrea C., Calleen K., Mary R., Melissa J., Debbie J., Heidi S., Melyssa S., Tanya H., Jessica C., Liz S., Margie W., Dani L., Ashley B., Rochelle O., Monica S., Andrea G., Katrena L., and Karla P., Mirella P., Shelley H., Katrena L.. Thank you everyone, couldn't have done it without you! (Everyone who helped with 50 things you should not say to autism parents is also included in this since that list helped create this one.)