We know they mean well. Or at least we hope they do. All of the family, friends, co-workers and even strangers who approach parents of children on the autism spectrum with words that really should never have left their mouths in the first place. Words that often unintentionally hurt or upset family members who are affected by autism.
So, in the spirit of National Autism Awareness Month, some of my friends and clients who have children on the autism spectrum decided to brainstorm a list of statements they wish people would and wouldn’t say.
1. Don’t say: “Is your child an artistic or musical genius? What special gifts does your child have?”
We’ve all seen “Rain Man” and know about the extraordinary artistic and musical gifts that some individuals on the autism spectrum possess. But the truth is that most on the spectrum do not have these gifts. In fact, only about 10 percent have savant qualities.
Do say: “How is your child doing?”
This is what you’d say to the parent of a typical child, right? It’s perfectly acceptable to say this to the parent of a child on the spectrum. They can share with you what’s going on in terms of their child’s treatment and/or educational experience.
2. Don’t say: “You’d never know by looking at her that she has autism! She looks so normal.”