He looks completely normal to me
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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.