5 Things You Should Never Say, or Assume about, To A Parent Whose Child Has Autism
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5 THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER SAY TO A PARENT whoSE CHILD HAS AUTISM
If your child has autism then you’re a walking target for friends, relatives and even strangers to offer unsolicited advice. You realize they have good intentions but it’s still a very hurtful experience. We’ve compiled a list of common mistakes that people make. When talking to parents whose children have autism, here are five things you should never say.
1. Autism does NOT mean deaf
You’re chatting to your friend and you notice her child engaging in some strange behavior. You’re curious and you ask “What is he doing? Does he always do that?” Questions like these place a parent in a very difficult situation. They are also very damaging to the autistic child’s self esteem. The child might not look up at you but he heard what you said.
A common misconception is that people with autism don’t comprehend the world around them. Nothing could be further from the truth. People with autism might not respond or react in typical ways. They might not have much speech but they do understand what’s being said. Keep in mind that many of them have acute hearing and can hear what you’re saying clear across a room.
2. Actions speak louder than words
You’re standing in line a busy store. The woman in front of you is struggling to keep her sanity intact. Her child is running off and pushing items off the sales racks to the ground. “What an insolent child” you think to yourself. “His mother should discipline him better!”
Don’t jump to conclusions just yet. It’s very possible the child has autism. Even if you’re tempted, do not roll your eyes and shake your head in disdain with other customers. This mom faces judgment at every turn. You will make her day if you smile broadly at her. Then offer to keep her place in line so that she can redirect her child.
3. Discipline advice
You’re visiting a friend whose child has autism. Her child is painstakingly building a tower and he accidently knocks it over. Devastated at his mistake, he flies into a rage and hurls the blocks through the air. Your friend quiets the situation but you don’t approve of the way she handles it. Shocked at her son’s inappropriate outburst, you offer some well meaning advice and share your discipline tactics.
Children with autism often don’t respond to conventional methods of discipline. This mom deals with more than you can possibly imagine and has probably tried every discipline tactic in the book. She’s afraid you’ll be judging her actions. A warm smile and a swift change of subject will do wonders for her.
4. You can leave him behind
You’re planning a trip to the amusement park. You’d love to go with your friend but you’re in a dilemma. Her typical kids love the amusement park but her child with autism seems to have a difficult time. So you come up with a solution. “Come with us to the amusement park” you tell her. “Your kids will love it. Well except for Tommy, but you can find something else for him to do that day.”
Inviting a family to join you, except for their child with autism is a very crushing experience to a parent. Your intentions might be good but that doesn’t make the experience less devastating. Parents that have children with autism desperately want their kids to be accepted in the community. Rise above the judgments of others and invite the whole family. If you feel that isn’t a viable option, leave your invite for another day when the whole family can be included.
5. Therapy recommendations
Your grandchild has autism. You’re distraught that your children have such a rough road ahead of them. You’re devastated that your gorgeous grandchild is autistic and you want to help. Having already raised your own children you’ve learned a thing or two. You cringe as your daughter tells you about the therapy option she’s picked and the behavior management she has for her child. You give the gift of wisdom and let her know how she should do it differently.
Parenting a child with autism is totally different from raising a normal child. You have to live it to really understand. If you want to do something wonderful, be supportive to the parents. Give your love, follow through on their decisions and stand by their side. You will become a hero to parents who desperately need your acceptance and support.
To all the parents whose children have special needs, we commend and praise you! Your road is rocky, filled with joy and challenges. To everyone else, we stand in gratitude. Your love and support is immeasurable for parents and their special needs kids. Thank you for standing by their side.