10 Things NOT to Say to a Parent of an Aspie
One of the more frustrating things being a parent of an Aspie is what other people say to you. I appreciate that some of these comments come from a well-intentioned place and you can’t know what I feel or think. I’ve hardened up, and am more likely to laugh it off these days, but if you know someone who is a parent of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, here are ten annoying (and sometimes insulting) things to NOT say to them!
1. Wow! Asperger’s? You’d never be able to tell!: Really? You’ve spent five minutes, maybe even an hour around my child and suddenly you’re able to diagnose? When you say this, you are minimizing all that I do to help my child as well as all the stress and strain and consequences of living with someone who thinks differently to the "norm."
2. Well, we’re all individuals or Everyone’s on "The Spectrum": No shit, Sherlock. When we say our child has Asperger’s Syndrome, it doesn’t mean we have some incredible desire to mark our child as different. We didn’t one day walk into a GP’s office and walk out with a diagnosis. I have four children, and trust me, each of them are individuals. Again, when you say this to me, you minimize my experiences. Would you say the same thing to a parent whose child is hearing impaired? Blind? Thought not.
3. Did he have the MMR?: Well, for the record, NO, but it’s not really any of your business, nor relevant. Science is now showing it’s hard wiring in the brain and nothing to do with the MMR. Even if it did, do you think every parent hasn’t questioned themselves? Add to this -- natural birth, breastfeeding and any of the other attachment parenting ideologies that had we all followed would mean autism/aspergers wouldn’t exist. For the record -- I was passionate about attachment parenting and followed its ideologies as much as I was able.
4. Have you tried (insert here: diet, exercise, therapist)?: Errrr… what do you think? Most parents of Aspies do LOADS of research to try and find out everything they can. Most of us have our kids on Omega 3′s, and avoid certain foods. We get to know the triggers -- whether it’s location, time of day, color or lines on the ground. And this comment also brings me to my next:
5. Is he on medication?: This is a particularly painful one. What does he need medication for? Do you say the same thing to a parent with a child with Down Syndrome? Nope, didn’t think so. My kid is amazing. Fantastic. I love him to pieces, and he doesn’t need to be "fixed." What he needs is people to treat him with respect and kindness. He needs a society that accepts differences that aren’t immediately obvious to the eye.
6. I have a (friend, sister, relation, friend of a friend) whose child has autism. That child will never (speak, communicate, be educated): I get it, I’m lucky. I have full empathy for those who live in the dark puzzle of autism, and when I share or talk with you I am not minimizing their experiences at all. I’m just saying what it is like for me, here, now. And him.
7. Have you thought about your parenting?: Hmmmm… now what do you think? Yes. I have. Often. I’ve thought about the things I do wrong and the things I do right. I have three other "mainstream" children. I was a teacher, I’m trained in working with children who have special needs. Being "strict" doesn’t help. Getting violent is more to do with you than the child. But I question myself and find myself falling short of one of the most amazing minds and children I have ever met.
8. Kids often grow out of this sort of thing: Riiiggghhttt, Sunshine. And where are you getting your facts from? Because mine tell me that things get worse in adolescence and that he’s really quite likely to develop OCD (kinda got that already), tourettes, and epilepsy.
9. He gets so much of your time, what about your other children?: Yip, hammer in the guilt, because I need a whole lot more from you. I know I have other children. I know he gets more of my attention. What do you want me to do? So rather than being at me, why don’t you lend a helping hand?
10. Life’s tough, he needs to experience these things to get on in life: oh! Yup! Course he does… but while your child might be able to deal with (insert supermarkets, walking on lines, not drinking from the right colored cup, getting a haircut) mine will have a meltdown for up to eight hours at a time. And by meltdown, I don’t mean tantrum -- there’s a difference. Your idea of my kid just needing to "harden up" shows a lack of understanding of Asperger’s.
Ok, I’m aware that some of these things may sound harsh and I know that often people say these things coming from a good place. But maybe, you’ll see that it can sometimes be a little insensitive to a parent who is loving an Aspie day in and day out. We are so lucky, but sometimes things can be hard.
As an alternative, how about:
“You’re doing a great job! Is there anything I can do to help?”
(if you said this, I might just burst into tears)
medicine vials and syringe photo via Shutterstock.