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 some things you should never say.
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.
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.
You’re visiting a friend whose child has autism. Her child is painstakingly building a tower and he accidentally 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.
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.