That’s normal for his age
Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, enterlinedesign/shutterstock Autism parents deal with a plethora of issues every day with their children, from refusing to eat certain foods to having a meltdown because a tag from a T-shirt touches their skin. Although autistic behaviors can sometimes mirror what we consider “normal” behaviors in other children, they are usually much more pronounced. The parents of an autistic child are often the only ones who see their child’s struggles every day. To an outsider, it can be easy to pass behaviors off as “normal,” but to those who live it daily, it’s a much different situation. Dan Jones, author of Look Into My Eyes, has spent the past 20 years working with children and adults with autism, and their families. Jones himself has Asperger’s, a high-functioning form of autism. “People still say everything I’m describing [about Asperger’s] is just normal, but I feel better with a label I can explain things through, where I can describe clusters of things under the label, rather than the one bit someone is focusing on.”
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
Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, enterlinedesign/shutterstock Autism parents already know how difficult autism can be, but not just for them. They see the struggles their child goes through, and that’s where the real difficulties lie. Most parents of children on the spectrum don’t want sympathy. Instead, they want to know that others won’t turn away from them when they need them most. They may need a shoulder to cry on, or a friend to give them a few minutes to get comfortable and breathe to reduce stress.
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
Nicole Fornabaio/Rd.com, enterlinedesign/shutterstock Outsiders to autism often believe that autistic individuals are, generally very similar, or exhibit similar behaviors. However, as most people on the spectrum, or people who work with those on the spectrum, will tell you, there is no set standard for what autism looks like. Maureen Lacert, a behavior analyst, special education teacher, and Director of Nashoba Learning Group, told boston.com, “If you know one person with autism, you know one person with autism. They’re all such unique individuals. They’re unique in their learning. They’re unique in their behaviors. It requires a unique approach in order to best teach any individual on the spectrum.” These are common signs of autism to look for in a child.
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.