No Need To Be Sorry And Other Things You Should Not Say To An Autism Parent
This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs over at AutismWonderland.
I remember when Norrin was first diagnosed with autism – the reaction from friends, family, coworkers. Some were really supportive. While others were either in disbelief or dismissive. And a lot of people said they were sorry.
I think the words “I’m sorry” hurt the most. It was as if, I was cheated out of something. It was as if, my beautiful son had disappointed me in some way. Don’t get me wrong, hearing the words, “your son has autism,” for the first time was a kick in the gut. But I didn’t need others to add to my moment of grief. I know people mean well. And so many people say things from a good place. But that doesn’t make it any less hurtful.
Over the years, I’ve heard so many things about Norrin’s autism. But here are just a few things that have been said to me – things that should have never been said. I’m sure many autism parents can relate.
I’m Sorry. There is no need to say “you’re sorry” when you learn someone has autism. I love my kid. I think he’s super cute, funny and smart. Being his mom is the best thing that has ever happened to me – I don’t want anyone feeling sorry for me. Or for him.
How can he learn if he can’t sit still? (Or anything else that questions their ability to learn.) I will never forget the day this was asked of me. Norrin’s kindergarten teacher asked me this after the second half day of school. Kids with autism do have the ability to learn – do not underestimate them.
You really need to take time out for yourself. Unless you are willing to come over to my house and stay with my kid or pay for a babysitting service please don’t say I need to take time out for myself. I know I should take more time just for me. It’s hard. So if I only get 10 minutes a day to myself – I’m grateful.
You need to relax. I once read that autism moms have stress similar to combat soldiers. That’s some pretty serious stress. And relaxing is easier said than done. So again, the sentiments are appreciated but unless you are willing to help alleviate that stress – you may want to keep that comment to yourself.
Are you sure he has autism? He looks so normal. Never question an autism diagnosis (especially if you know nothing about autism). Ever. There are so many people who still question Norrin’s diagnosis – especially when they see a picture or hear me talk about him. And I can’t tell you how many people questioned me when Norrin was initially diagnosed. Autism doesn’t look like anything.
Are you going to have another kid? This actually works two ways. People ask if I’m going to have another kid as if having another baby will make up for my kid with autism. The week Norrin was diagnosed with autism I had four different people tell me I should have another baby. Not really the words I wanted when I was trying to figure out this new world of special needs parenting.
And then there’s: You’re not going to have more kids are you? I’ve heard that too and it doesn’t feel so good. It’s as if having a special needs child is so horrible that the possibility of wanting another child is absolutely out of the question. My personal rule of thumb is – I don’t ask people about having/wanting kids. I don’t ask unmarried women, I don’t ask newlyweds, I don’t even ask people who have kids.
I know it’s hard for some people who don’t understand autism to get why these things can be hurtful. And some people just don’t know what to say. That’s okay. Sometimes taking the time to listen and understand is the best thing you can do.
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