That's normal for his age
Here's what to say instead: Can you tell me a little about the things that affect him most every day?
I'm sorry—it must be so hard
Here's what to say instead: I can see how stressed out you are. What can I do to help?
I know someone with autism, so I understand
Here's what to say instead: I know autism can be so different in people. Can you tell me about how it affects your child? I'd love to know more.
Autism wasn't as common a few years ago
It's true that autism is more commonly diagnosed than it was just a decade or so ago. According to autismspeaks.org, autism was diagnosed in about 1 in 166 people a decade ago, and is now diagnosed in 1 in 68. However, it's far from a made-up disorder. Dr. Oksana Hagerty sheds some light on this topic, as an educational and developmental psychologist who also serves as a learning specialist at Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida. "More research certainly led to a better understanding of the condition. But social relativity also plays an important role as better economic conditions elevated the perception of the status of neurodevelopmental disorders such as ASD and specific learning disorders (SLD)." Dr. Hagerty explains that, in other economically disadvantaged countries, these types of disorders are considered "'luxury' level disabilities" because they aren't equipped with the resources necessary for diagnoses.
Here's what to say instead: I've heard autism is on the rise. I'd love to help you bring awareness to the disorder so more children and adults can get the help they need.
That's why I don't get my child vaccinated
The possible link between autism and the vaccinations children get before the age of 5 began because of a fraudulent research paper by Andrew Wakefield. Since then, many parents have elected not to vaccinate their children, for fear of vaccinations raising the risk of their children developing autism, and some are quick to pass judgment on those who do, especially if their child has been diagnosed on the spectrum. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counters that there have been legitimate studies conducted that conclude no link between vaccines and the development of autism. The studies have looked at everything from the antigens (the compounds that sort of poke the immune system to get a response) to the ingredients in vaccines, and the results have been the same. Here are other common myths related to vaccines.
Here's what to say instead: I may have different beliefs about vaccines, but I know every parent has a responsibility to do what he or she feels is best for the child.
Are you sure?
The diagnostic criteria for evaluating individuals for autism, according to the DSM-5 (which is like a handbook for doctors), is extremely comprehensive. It involves paperwork from parents, teachers, and specialists, thorough observations of the individual, play-based assessments, and more. Still, autism comes under fire often as a disorder that is too easily diagnosed, leaving some to question the accuracy of the diagnostic process, sometimes even accusing parents of pushing for a diagnosis. Amy Hess, program director at the Center for Autism Transition and Services (CAST) at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and an autism parent, admits that the evaluation process for her son was extremely difficult for her. "To see our son fail aspects of the ADOS (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule) as well as other tests was heartbreaking. We challenged the results, reviewed the data and had difficulty accepting the diagnosis, mainly because we did not want the diagnosis," she says. In other words, it's not something most parents take lightly, and it's certainly not something they wish for their children.
Here's what to say instead: Can you explain more about the diagnostic process? I'm interested in knowing more.
You should teach him some manners
It can be incredible difficult to "teach" a child on the spectrum manners, such as saying "please," "thank you," or even keeping his elbows off the dinner table. As Jones explains in his book, Look Into My Eyes, "Social skills are something that most people learn unconsciously as they grow up, through copying parents and older siblings." Children on the spectrum don't typically have the same ability to mimic social skills as others do. Rather, they have "very limited awareness that there are different ways to treat people, or that different behavior has different meaning." Although consistent therapies can help some children on the spectrum develop manners, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Here's what to say instead: What should I do to help him develop manners? What are you doing at home that works?
He won't be so picky if you make him eat what you eat
Here's what to say instead: What foods are her favorite? Maybe I can give you some new ideas of ways to prepare them that she might like.
Autism is an excuse for bad behaviors
Here's what to say instead: I've heard that autism can present a lot of challenging behaviors. If you ever want to vent, I'm here.
She just needs some more socialization
Here's what to say instead: I can tell she has a hard time in social situations. What can I do to make it easier for her?