5 things I like to hear

Ever met someone helping someone with a disability and you didn’t know what to say? Didn’t know how to make small talk? Well here are 5 do’s and 5 don’ts.

Let’s start with the don’ts

1. “But he (or she) doesn’t look autistic”. Umm this isn’t a compliment nor a good argument point. For people not close to those with autism there is no “look” to an autistic person like there usually is to someone with for instance, Down syndrome. I will say that there is often body language that can be picked up on as you become more aware of this community of individuals… And some like to wear sound canceling headphones… But there is no physical characteristic.

Instead…

“I love his blond hair” or really any real compliment works. Caregivers are just that, caring. Parents with autistic children are still parents who like to hear complaints about their child. Be nice, be sincere.

Don’t

2. “I’m so sorry!” Why? Ok, I get it, it can be a shock or talking about disabilities doesn’t come up naturally to everyone so this one often falls out of a mouth because someone doesn’t know what to say. I’ve never met a special needs parent who liked this one. We don’t need people feeling bad for our child’s existence, and we don’t want people feeling sorry for us. We work hard and would like to be recognized for that instead thanks.

Instead…

“Wow, I didn’t know, you must be doing an amazing job”. Yep, just assume I’m doing an awesome job and just assume my kid is doing his best. If we get to know each other on a personal level or become close friends we can talk about the hard stuff. But as far as small talk goes, just be nice and assume the best in others.

Don’t

3. “So what’s he good at? What’s his special talent?” Umm either you watched Rain man and no other movie that actually attempts to portrays those with disabilities, or you are insinuating that my child is a dog? I’ve really had people ask this more then once and I always like to tell them with a proud smile, he likes to build with his blocks! Like that was what they were looking for, instead of something like he speaks 4 languages and plans to go to college before he can shave. Most people on the spectrum are not savants.

Instead…

“What’s he interested in? Would he like to tell me?” Everyone has interests, and many on the spectrum have unique things they love. I’ve met a kid who loved to carry around hangers, I met one who loved ceiling fans, and mine like many loves trains and race cars. Mr. L would love to talk to people about his interests and often tries to.

Dont…

4. “What medication is he on?” Is this supposed to be a compliment? Like there is no way my son on the spectrum could behave like any other kid because he has autism? My son can’t just have a good, fun, happy day, med-free? Medication must be the reason he isn’t behaving like an animal? Is it common place to ask anyone what medications they take as a form of non-medical placed small talk? Is his medical history community property or public domain? This one is just weird and not ok.

Instead

“Would your son like to come play with my kids?” Or talk to him and just say, “Hi” acknowledge his existence. Treat him like the human he is and include him. Surprise! People (not just the kids) with autism want friends, and want to communicate with others too. It might not be easy, and all of them might not, but most do.

Don’t

5. “Oh you’re the one with the bad kid, let me show you how to spank him the right way”. Yes, I’ve been told this and NO it’s not ok. In fact this is not ok to tell any parent/ caregiver- for neurotypical kids or special needs kids. If you can’t spank depression, anxiety or diabetes out of someone, you certainly can’t spank autism out either. Don’t you think if spanking could change neurological brain disorders that many adult people on the spectrum wouldn’t have tried it already?

Instead

“Hey, can I help at all?” Some may take the help, and many won’t. But I can tell you that even on the hard days, even in the middle of a full blown melt down in the middle of a mall with my 2nd kid still in diapers too, sitting next to me while I held my screaming child… It was helpful. It’s nice to know that the community of people around me were not ALL judging me. That even if help couldn’t make it better, it was nice to know that people were willing to lend a hand, and just knowing that that kind of love exists is powerful, strengthening, and comforting. Just reaching out can turn a terrible day into a not so terrible day.

I hope some of these ideas can be conversation starters for you, and I hope the bad ones can be used a little less in this world. For now I’ll keep assuming the best in others who are trying, and I’ll continue to inform those who probably will never get it anyways.

Had any good comments from strangers lately? Tell us about it in the comments below and don’t forget to like and share! Much love! ✌️❤️🧩🙊

13 comments

  1. Makes sense! This sounds like I’m just following point 1 now, but I had this in mind after seeing the first picture— Mr. L is always charming! And I don’t know if I’m imagining this, but I often see an extra depth of expressiveness in the facial expressions of autistic people. Or extra sincerity or intensity in the expression.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Whew I can so relate to this. I have literally heard all these comments and have wanted to smack so many ppl as a result!!!! I haven’t heard anything nice from strangers but my mom is always telling me great things about my daughter which I appreciate

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is a very insightful post. I’m studying Counseling and human developmental psychology, and I also borrowed courses from special education and early childhood.

    My point is…..

    I’v been so much enlightened by relating with Autistic and amazing people.

    Sometimes, they make me understand and love life, more than the ‘normal’ ones.

    I personally saw a wonderful fellow with autism and he was fascinated by my wristwatch.

    I took my wristwatch off and I wore it on his wrist. I could see the amazement and joy on his face.

    These people also have emotions. They have feelings. They care, they love, they matter.

    And I will always cherish that ❤️❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks for this. I have seen and heard the lists of what not to say but am grateful for the list of what to say instead. If I ever get the chance to talk to the group I was scheduled to talk to next week, I will add these.

    Liked by 2 people

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