Things not to say to a parent of an autistic child

This post idea came from twitter, and some of the great people I’m following on there. Things not to say to a parent of an autistic child. Some of the ridiculous and often downright offensive things, that we as parents of autistic children have said to us. Amaze me at times. Usually its by people who aren’t meaning to be nasty and offensive. There are those horrible people out there, but I’m not wasting my time trying to preach to them.

What I want to do is tell you all, things not to say to a parent of an autistic child. Specifically some of the more common things people say, and probably don’t realise just how offensive they are being. I’m quite a relaxed guy, and don’t personally get too upset by these things, but some people do, which is why I want to do this post.

Things not to say

Let’s start with the simplest and probably most common one. Sorry. When a parent tells you their child is autistic, for Christ sake don’t let the first word you reply be, sorry. I’m not sorry, they’re probably not sorry, and no one has died. Don’t be sorry. Depending on the parent, you could be met by a sarcastic or angry response. You’d be getting the sarcasm from me!

What like Rain man? If you don’t know Rain Man, it’s an 80’s movie about a someone kidnapping their autistic brother, to try and force him to give up his share of their inheritance. My main issue with it is, I’ve never watched the film so I have no idea if Jack or Lily are anything like Rain Man. I’ve heard plenty about it though, with some blaming it for the creation of lots of the negative stereotypes surrounding autism. Some also say it made autism visible, which was a good thing. I should probably watch it and make up my own mind at some point.

My personal favourite, Does that mean they are really good at maths? Something I got asked a lot when Jack was younger, the look of disappointment when I told people Jack doesn’t understand maths at all was quite amusing. Lily does like Maths, and finds it easier to understand than other school work. She’s not quite at genius level, not yet anyway. And let’s not forget, they don’t look autistic. Autism doesn’t come with “a look”, so I’m not quite sure what that is even supposed to mean. Or what this autism look that some people expect even looks like.

Things not to say to a parent of an autistic child

Just like any other child

I know it can feel a bit awkward knowing what to say, and unless you have been around autism you are unlikely to know a great deal about it. And what you do know are likely to be unhelpful stereotypes. So my advice for if the situation arises when someone tells you, there child is autistic. Treat the conversation like they are just another child, which of course they are. Then see where the parent takes the conversation.

I’ve shared 3 things not say to the parent of an autistic child, but I’ve been fairly lucky with my experiences. I’m sure there are lot more, and probably worse things that have been said. So to all the parents out there, if you have any other examples you would like to share. Leave a comment on here or on the social media’s, and I will add them into the post. As always, thank you for reading and your continued support!

Suggestions from readers

  • How do you cure them?
  • Did they have their vaccines?
  • Does that mean he’s a mong? (Christ, I’d be getting arrested, if someone said that to me.)
  • Is he going to be like Forrest Gump?
  • Will they grow out of it?

Dad Does Autism

My name is Adam. I live with my partner Natalie, and our 2 children Jack and Lily. Both children are autistic, it is now my mission to show what life around autism is like. Spread the awareness and gain the acceptance that autistic people deserve.

34 thoughts on “Things not to say to a parent of an autistic child

  • August 22, 2020 at 1:13 pm
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    I was actually expecting to see a list of bogus anti-vaxxer comments and bleach cures, so I guess that’s something at least, that you’re not hearing a lot of that crap

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    • August 22, 2020 at 1:16 pm
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      Yeah, I’ve never personally had that, have been offered a couple of magic pills, and yes they actually used the term “magic pill” 🤦‍♂️

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  • August 22, 2020 at 1:53 pm
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    This is such a great and informative post. People really need to read this to educate themselves on what to say to parents of autistic children. I totally agree with you that saying sorry is very unacceptable. I feel like a lot of people just don’t know what to say or just don’t know how to word things right lol

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    • August 22, 2020 at 1:57 pm
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      It’s definitely not easy to know what to say, if you have no experience to call on. People for the most part at least are not meaning to offend.

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    • August 22, 2020 at 5:00 pm
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      Being honest Adam, if I was speaking to a parent and they replied informing me their child was autistic, it’s a small bit of anxiousness as you don’t know what to say to them without thinking you are going to offend them.

      A great post to help people understand. At the end of the day they are normal, why should they be looked at or judged differently just because they are autistic.

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      • August 22, 2020 at 8:42 pm
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        Yeah that’s exactly it, which is why I personally don’t get angry about what people say.

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  • August 22, 2020 at 2:58 pm
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    I second everything you said, Adam. Those who don’t walk in parents with autism child shoes should not say such a thing.

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  • August 22, 2020 at 3:01 pm
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    The first time it was said to me, I had to go away and google Rain Man, I’d never heard of it.

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    • August 22, 2020 at 8:39 pm
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      At least it’s not just me 😂

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  • August 22, 2020 at 3:24 pm
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    I guess it is hard to know what to say, but a little bit of thought about what you are saying would go along way.

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  • August 22, 2020 at 5:53 pm
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    This is great to help people understand more.

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  • August 22, 2020 at 9:04 pm
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    It is so easy to assume things of people based off common ideas and stereotypes, so I love that you have spoken up and shared some of the things you do not like to hear. That is how change happens. 🙂

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    • August 22, 2020 at 10:11 pm
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      Thank you, that’s the idea 😊

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  • August 23, 2020 at 12:48 am
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    Sadly the general public usually only know the stereotypes, for most things.

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    • August 23, 2020 at 10:54 am
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      Yeah that is unfortunately very true

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  • August 23, 2020 at 9:59 am
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    I really don’t know what goes through some peoples minds when they say things like this or maybe that’s it, they just don’t think. I’ve been out for a day out with my friend and her two autistic boys and the amount of times we’ve been told “they don’t look autistic” or “how do you cure them” is unreal.

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    • August 23, 2020 at 10:54 am
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      Oh Christ, I’ve never had “how do you cure them” 😲 I’ll add that into the post. Had plenty of “they don’t look autistic” especially when Jack was younger, now his high anxiety levels mean he doesn’t get that so much now. Lily though, it’s like you have to convince people she is autistic 🤦‍♂️

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  • August 23, 2020 at 11:00 am
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    I’ve had – so he’s going to be a mong. That was from my best mate. He’s since apologised….a lot.

    The best/worst one I’ve had – is he going to be like Forest Gump. From my brother in law.

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  • August 23, 2020 at 1:14 pm
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    I’m surprised you missed the classic, will they grow out of it.

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  • August 23, 2020 at 2:26 pm
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    I can’t believe you’ve had people saying these things to you – that honestly reflects far more on them though. Thank you for sharing, it’s important that this kind of ignorance is corrected.

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    • August 23, 2020 at 9:51 pm
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      From the comments and messages I’ve been getting for suggestions of things to add to the post, I seem to have got off lightly to be fair. Some real shockers on the list.

      Reply
  • August 23, 2020 at 9:40 pm
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    I’ve heard all of these before, unfortunately. I’m quite surprised ‘did they get their vaccines, by any chance?’ isn’t on the list. It must be tough constantly having to deal with people being misinformed or ignorant (…or both).

    Sophie

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    • August 23, 2020 at 9:50 pm
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      I’ve never had the vaccine one, I also don’t personally know any “anti-vaxers” which probably has something. It’s on the list that I will add to the post, and it seems im the only one who hasn’t had it.

      Reply
  • August 24, 2020 at 3:41 pm
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    Ugh I can’t imagine how frustrating it is for you when you’re faced with people who say these things. I know most people are just misinformed but it’s still annoying.

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    • August 24, 2020 at 5:35 pm
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      It’s annoying, I try not to let it bother me too much, but if you’re already having a bad day….

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  • August 24, 2020 at 8:02 pm
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    Thanks for sharing, some people do not know what to say to people that are different from everybody else, I have had this type of thing said to me, you just have to stick up for your children and teach them that people need education 🙂

    Nic | Nic’s Adventures & Bakes

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    • August 26, 2020 at 1:38 am
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      Thank you, you are absolutely right 😊

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  • August 25, 2020 at 3:15 pm
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    Will they grow out of it, is the one that always gets me.

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  • August 26, 2020 at 1:24 am
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    Some eye opening things in this! The things people say 🤦‍♂️

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  • August 27, 2020 at 11:37 pm
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    This is is such a great post, another one I have heard is “oh that makes sense”. I think people don’t realise how offensive things sound when they say them.

    Thanks for sharing this

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    • August 28, 2020 at 1:37 pm
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      Oof yeah, I guess they don’t, the majority of people at least. Thanks for another one for my list 😊

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  • September 28, 2020 at 8:12 am
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    It gets so bad when someone tells you that the child does not look autistic. Yes, as though they expect the kids to have an ugly face or something

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    • September 28, 2020 at 1:01 pm
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      Yeah, I know exactly what you mean.

      Reply

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