She just needs some more socialization
Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, enterlinedesign/shutterstock Socialization is a touchy subject for many autism parents. Although they know the importance of socialization for autistic individuals, it can be heartbreaking to witness a child’s struggles with socialization. It’s just not as simple as giving the child more socialization opportunities. Hess says that autistic individuals typically enter into social groups led by therapists. These groups give social opportunities, while allowing the therapist and other participants to guide individuals to pick up on important social cues and use proper social techniques within a group. It’s all about giving those on the spectrum opportunities for navigating social scenarios, but doing so at their own pace so as not to overwhelm them by triggering anxiety. Read what it’s like to live with crippling anxiety.
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?
Her behavior is out of control
Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, enterlinedesign/shutterstock Parents of children on the spectrum are well aware of the consequences of their children’s behaviors. But, it takes time to address those behaviors due to underlying health conditions that so often come along with the disorder. Dr. Janet Lintala, author of The Un-Prescription for Autism: A Natural Approach for a Calmer, Happier, and More Focused Child, and founder of Autism Health, is an autism mom herself. Lintala explains, “Our autistic children aren’t giving us a hard time, they are having a hard time, and more understanding of how overwhelming their world can be is needed.” According to Lintala, there are a vast number of therapies available that can help children on the spectrum, and their parents, work through negative behaviors, like Applied Behavior Analysis, cognitive behavior therapy, and social role-playing. However, it can be a long process, especially when many sensory issues often have to be addressed before other therapies can begin to make progress.
Here’s what to say instead: What do her therapists think about her progress? Have they suggested anything new to try?
He looks completely normal to me
Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, enterlinedesign/shutterstock Lintala admits that, as the mother of a child on the spectrum, this type of comment not only makes her feel awkward, but it makes her embarrassed for the person saying it too. As a clinician, she handles these types of comments very sincerely, and uses it as a teaching opportunity: “I keep my voice calm and non-judgmental, and ask a simple question like, ‘What were you expecting?’ or ‘What do you think autism looks like?’ This leads to a sincere exploration of their concept of autism, and gives me the opportunity to gently break down stereotypes.” Lintala says that new breakthroughs in genetics are revealing that, perhaps, those on the spectrum are simply just on one side of the “normal” spectrum, with a wide range of health issues that present the challenges we see in autistic individuals. In other words, there is no true definition of “normal,” and there is also no reason to ever consider a person on the spectrum as anything but.
Here’s what to say instead: I admit I don’t know much about autism. I’d love to learn more whenever you’re able to talk about it.