Failing to see eye-to-eye with loved ones -- especially when it comes to how you parent -- can be frustrating and upsetting. But moms with kids who have autism may feel particularly overwhelmed when family members fail to understand their child's autism diagnosis and, in turn, what they're going through. Worse yet when family members or close friends -- either out of ignorance or denial or other emotional issues -- spout off insensitive, misguided assumptions about a child on the spectrum. It's bad enough when strangers don't get it, but when those who are nearest and dearest to the situation blame a mom's parenting or make remarks that come off clueless at best, and heartless at worst, it can feel absolutely devastating.
Here, moms of kids with autism share 15 of the seriously insensitive things they've ever heard from their loved ones ...
- You just need to spank him.
- I don't know why he is like that. (Because he has autism!)
- He is lazy, spoiled, and weird because of video games.
- You just need to be stricter.
- He'll outgrow it.
- Your boys don't "look" autistic.
- All they need is an "ass beating."
- Are you sure he's autistic because he seems happy?
- Are you sure he's autistic because kids with autism don't like to be touched and they don't like people?
- You just don't allow him enough opportunity to socialize.
- He has mercury poisoning, not autism, and you caused it by allowing him to be vaccinated.
- (About child on the autism spectrum who is partially hearing-impaired) Tell your son to "talk right." He sounds "retarded."
- You make too many excuses for your kid.
- Autism isn't real. It's an excuse for parents who don't want to "beat" their kids.
- You just want something to be wrong with her, so you can have attention.
Is your mind blown yet?
We should never underestimate the negative power of these sorts of remarks from loved ones. Dr. Kim Painter, Ph.D., a child and family psychologist in New Jersey, explains, "When moms are faced with hurtful comments from family members, it can result in the mother experiencing a variety of emotional responses: anger, sadness, outrage, confusion, uncertainty, disappointment, and so forth." Thankfully, they don't have to contend with them alone. "It is crucial for moms to separate themselves from these hurtful comments," says Painter. "When people make negative comments, it is a reflection of their own process and has nothing to do with you. Remember, you are the expert on your child. You consulted with experts in child development and autism to appropriately diagnose your child. The combined expertise between you and the trained professionals is what will help your child immensely."
Painter recommends moms look for support from other parents in the same boat through a local support group or seeking the help of a licensed psychologist to learn coping skills that will help them -- and by extension, their children -- thrive.
How have you handled insensitive comments about your child's diagnosis from family members?
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