By Christine Denise
Autism Mom and Contributing Writer for As You Are, a virtual clinic dramatically increasing access to early autism diagnostic services through the use of exclusively telehealth appointments
This is a guide on ways to be more supportive and helpful in language when you meet a parent who has a child with autism. Oftentimes, people want to say the right thing and are afraid of saying the wrong thing. Here are some words that may come to your mind. What seems like the right thing to say may not be and here’s why:
There are so many resources out there nowadays for children with autism.
Yes, we know, but it is also difficult to find and qualify for all of the resources that are out there. And all the resources in the world still don’t make this diagnosis go away. The resources aren’t neatly or comprehensively arranged either. That, on top of never feeling like we’re doing enough for our child makes this statement really sting sometimes.
What can I do to help?
Thinking of a task to give you so that you feel better about the situation isn’t very high on my priority list. Get to know that family who has a child with autism. When you do, what you can do to help will become apparent and you won’t have to ask. You will know what to do, and the parents you do it for will be so grateful. Something as simple as offering to have the family over for pizza or a way to spend time together is a big help to families with special needs kiddos because sometimes going places isn’t the easiest thing to do. When you do go places with a special needs family, jump in and help just like you would for a neurotypical child. Or offer to drive a child to a therapy session or sensory-friendly event.
I think autism is overdiagnosed.
For someone with absolutely no medical background or foundation in research to flippantly say something like this is like getting punched in the gut. We already have a lot to come to terms with when we get this diagnosis. We already have the doubts that come with not wanting to accept it. The last thing we need is for someone to act like we are getting hosed or taken by the autism world.
I know someone with autism and they’re perfectly fine.
Autism affects everyone differently. For some children, it’s barely noticeable. For others, it is obvious. Telling us that someone you know is “perfectly fine” doesn’t help us if we don’t believe our child is. And you may think that child or adult with autism is “perfectly fine,” and they actually may not be. Sweeping generalizations like this are extremely harmful and do not give us hope.
You know, they’ll probably outgrow a lot of this.
No, I don’t know that and neither do you. That’s one of the things that’s so unpredictable about an Autism diagnosis. No one can say whether symptoms will improve with time, or if there will be regression. At 8 years old, we are still wondering if our son will ever learn to use utensils, tell us he has to go to the bathroom, dress himself or speak. And we’re not sure if he will ever “outgrow” any of it.
Do you have questions about your child’s development? The team at As You Are provides useful autism screening and diagnostic evaluations for kids 16 months to 10 years old via telehealth appointments.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. This is a sponsored blog post, but all opinions are my own.