Autism is a complex and mysterious disorder that baffles both the medical community and society at large. Because of that there are countless myths and misconceptions about it, and families who have children with autism are often met with comments from people that are insensitive at best.
Most people don't mean any harm. Some are simply at a loss for words, while others are really trying to help ... in their own off-target way. But that doesn't mean those encounters don't affect parents just the same.
I gathered input from a group of mothers who are raising children with autism as to the most hurtful, insensitive, and outrageous things people have said to them. I cringed at a few that I may have said at some point in my life (#2), but mostly I was blown away by the blatant ignorance some of these statements reflect. So in the name of building more awareness and abolishing some of these misconceptions, here are 35 things NOT to say to the mother of a child with autism.
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1. There's a book out about how to cure your kid.
2. Oh, my kid does that.
3. All kids do that.
4. He'll/she'll outgrow it.
5. But he seems so normal!
6. I'm so sorry.
7. That's such a trendy thing to have right now.
8. Have you tried spanking him?
9. Are you worried about his future?
10. I can't believe you had more kids.
11. Special children are such a blessing, aren't they?
12. Is he ignoring me?
13. Oooh, I just LOOOOVE special needs children.
14. God wouldn't give you more than you can handle.
15. Are you sure he's autistic?
16. Do you think he'll ever learn to drive?
17. You just need to give him more social opportunities. Join more groups.
18. When I was a kid, we just weren't allowed to act that way. It wasn't an option.
19. He'll grow out of it and be the next Bill Gates.
20. But he's so happy!
21. Get him in early intervention, and he'll be fine.
22. What's wrong with him?
23. But he's so smart...
24. I would never be able to do what you do for your kids.
25. God chose the parents well.
26. What is her savant skill?
27. My kids tantrum [or whatever] all the time, too!
28. Sometimes I think have autism, too!
29. If I only gave her more vitamins, I could cure her.
30. Ugh, my toddler just will not SHUT UP! I'm about to go nuts with the incessant talking! -- said to mother of non-verbal child.
31. Everyone has something.
32. Aren't you afraid?
33. I didn't have kids because my brother/uncle/cousin has autism, and so I didn't want to risk it.
34. But he's so beautiful and he looks so normal.
35. In the 80's it was dyslexia, in the '90s ADHD, and now it seems autism is the popular diagnosis.
As for something helpful to say. One mom shared this:
I'd been sitting on the sidewalk with B for about half an hour waiting for a meltdown to subside when a lady walked by and said, "Hang in there, Mom." I felt almost hugged by the inclusion of that statement. I wish I'd gotten to thank her, but I looked up and she was gone.
What would you add to the list?
Image via Beverly & Pack/Flickr