April 8, 2015

A Little Advice On How to Talk to This Autism Mom

If it's hard for you to tell my son has autism, I take that as a compliment.  It's not because I hate autism, but because Brandon and I both work very hard to make sure he is happy and self-sufficient as possible.  One of my favorite quotes is, "If it’s hard to tell that a high functioning autistic child is on the spectrum, pat the parent on the back.  Lots of tears, time, research, repetition, and tantrum battling went into that."

When Brandon was first diagnosed, people doubted that he had autism, even though it was very apparent to me that he did.  There were classic signs of autism all over the place.  Other people say to me, "Lots of kids talk late."  Or, "So-and-so's son didn't talk until he was three."  Or, "Oh, well my kid does [that] too, and he/she doesn't have autism."  

Although these are usually well-intention remarks - you are simply trying to be positive and give us hope - there are three problems with statements like these:

First, I know that you absolutely are not meaning to do this, but you're giving a parent who is going through a major struggle the impression that you think they don't now what they're talking about.

Second, you never know what struggles someone is going through that you can't see.  When you're over at my house visiting, my son may be watching TV like a typical kid.  But what you don't see later on is him knocking his head (hard) with his knuckles because something has upset him very deeply and he has no way to tell me what that is.

Third, autism is invisible.  You can't look at someone and determine they have autism by any physical characteristics.  I've heard a few times, "He doesn't look like he has autism."  The few times someone has said this to me, it was in a tone of encouragement.  The reason he doesn't "look" like he has autism is because there is no "look" of autism.  When I'm walking around the grocery store, and he has a meltdown because they don't have the right kind of cookie, people assume that he is spoiled.  That's what I would have thought before Brandon taught me to know better.  Maybe that kid you see in the grocery store is just spoiled.  Maybe he has autism.  Maybe he has some other diagnosis we are not educated on.  Maybe he's got an ear infection.  Maybe his parents just split up and the inconsistency has him rattled.  Who knows.  Just be conscious of reserving the judgment.  It's also very important to know that autism goes beyond being socially awkward.  It is a spectrum disorder, and children with autism have vastly different symptoms and characteristics.  Just because you know some other kid with autism, doesn't mean those symptoms have anything to do with Brandon.

I wan't to wrap this up by saying that I appreciate all the love and support I receive from my friends and family. I still get these kinds comments, but not nearly as often as I did about a year ago.  Please hear me when I say this: I will absolutely take ANY well-intentioned comments over you being afraid to reach out or not say anything at all.  So, please don't be discouraged in knowing how to talk to a parent of a child with autism.  I simply want to give some loving advice from my perspective.  If you're reading this, you care enough to take time of your busy day to learn a little bit about autism.  This is what matters most to me.


  1. Sooo right! Took the words right out of my mind, of course those times in the middle of a meltdown in a public setting if someone gets me during those moments is when I recommend for others to not approach me otherwise I am totally open to talk to others about my baby :)

    1. Oh yeah. I've got the comebacks playing in my head during meltdowns for any potential rude passerbys. So far it hasn't happened to me yet...but I'll be ready!


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