Welcome to World Autism Awareness Day. Hopefully I had enough clean laundry to be wearing blue today! And, hopefully I’ll survive this morning’s Special Needs Story Time! Since I’m over at the library, I’m honored to bring you my witty Twitter friend the Domestic Goddess! She has two sons on the autism spectrum and a sassy sense of humor.
A lot of what she has to say today applies to all special needs families. I have to say that for the most part, I’ve been pretty fortunate in this area so far. And, most times people don’t mean to come across as insensitive. Consider this an education in what your words can sound like to someone who’s had a really long day dealing with meltdowns and other issues. Domestic Goddess is going to help you know what to say and not to say in those times when you’re just not sure what to say.
Autism families have burdens like every other family. Most of the time we just want to be normal for a few seconds, even though normal is boring to us (but most likely we are never, EVER bored.). People mean well, they really do. Maybe we’re just being overly-sensitive because we’re constantly on high alert. We’re not trying to be ungrateful, really. Sometimes people just say the wrong thing, y’all. And if I had a dollar for every time someone said the following? I’d be a rich woman indeed and I wouldn’t be scrounging for money for therapy. Ahem. Anyways, without further ado, let’s get the Ten Things We Wish You Wouldn’t Say out of the way, shall we?
- G-d doesn’t give you more than you can handle. Look, I understand the intent. I know you are just trying to make me feel better. The thing is, if I am given something that I can handle, why do I need Wellbutrin? Just sayin’.
- Your kids are so lucky to have you for a Mommy! Really? It wasn’t random you know. They ended up with me for a reason alright, it’s called genetics. And if you don’t understand what I’m talking about, there’s this great book on puberty I can read with you.
- I don’t know how you do it! You are so strong/amazing/such a good mom! No, I’m not. It may appear that way on the outside. I do this BECAUSE I FREAKING HAVE TO. I’m just doing what any parent should do. The alternative is…Foster care? Sending them off? No. Though I’ve been tempted. From time to time. Not that I’m admitting that (Oh, I just did).
- He’ll talk when he’s ready. Oh dear. This one strikes a real nerve. That kid is more than ready to communicate, my friends. In fact, he’s long overdue. Also, also? He NEEDS to be able to do it. He is beyond frustrated. HE IS READY. It just doesn’t come.
- He’ll eat better eventually or when he is hungry. This is a kid who will either not eat all day or eat nothing but rice crackers and apples for three days. He’s stubborn. Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. And now he’s allergic to apples! WEEEEEE!!!!
- Can’t you just discipline him? HAHAHAHAHA! Oh, that’s a good one! HAHAHAHA!!! Oh! That’s funny! Discipline! It’s not like he goes to a BEHAVIORAL school or anything! HAHAHAHA!!!
- He’s manipulating you. He’s just trying to get attention. Because a kid who can’t talk and pushes people away on a regular basis and doesn’t want to be around people hardly ever is looking for more attention. RIGHT-O!
- I’m so sorry! Sorry? Why? Did something bad happen? Oh, you mean about my kid! Why? He isn’t dying of some incurable disease and he’s quite happy, thankyouverymuch(and I should add, we’re just fine).
- What’s WRONG with Him? I cannot begin to tell you how much my jaw hurts from clenching my teeth when I hear this one. There is NOTHING wrong with my boy but I’m sure there’s PLENTY wrong with your lack of manners and you should be ashamed of asking me a question like that at your age. Sheesh. You’ve got a big mole on your nose, too. So there.
- Normal kids do that, too! Or, Oh my kid does that! No big deal! Really? Way to invalidate my feelings! And I highly doubt your child does it at this intensity and for this duration for this many days in a row. It also insinuates that my kid is not normal. And while I’m not claiming my kids are normal, C’mon! Trying to make it sound like my kids’ pants wetting in public/temper tantrums/eating food off the restaurant floor is NORMAL behavior is just…well, not normal. Also? It’s a big deal for us.
- YOU ARE SPOILING HIM. I lied. There are ELEVEN. Because this kid goes to Eleven, see. And he can’t be spoiled, that would entail overindulging him and since it’s impossible to give a kid too much of something he doesn’t want, he can’t possible spoiled. The only thing he gets overindulged in is LOVE. And we’re kinda all about freely giving that kind of stuff.
Now, What SHOULD you say to an Autism Family? How about this:
- What can I do to help?
- Let me know if I can help.
- Thanks for explaining it to me, it will help me understand.
- I’m here for you.
- I’m here to listen when you need it.
- I know this is difficult for you.
- You’re doing the best you can
- You’re doing a great job.
- I’m thinking of you/ I’m praying for you.
- The heck with what other people think.
- I can’t relate.
- I don’t know what it’s like to be in your shoes but I understand it’s difficult.
Sometimes saying nothing is fine. A simple card, a dinner brought over, an offer for coffee or to take the kids is great! If you don’t know what to say, say nothing at all or say, “I don’t know what to say.” Or hey, a hug would be great! Most people just want an offer of help. You don’t even need to do anything, just OFFER. After all, to raise a child with special needs takes TONS of people. Therapists, neighbors, friends, relatives…all are equally important. All have potential to change that child’s life. All of them can help, even if it’s a teeny-tiny thing. A simple action or a kind word go a LONG WAY. And that simple action is HUGE to us.
It tells us you love us and you care.
More About Me:
I am a Domestic Engineer, Total Babe and SAHM to two boys with autism, ADHD, OCD and a variety of other acronyms. I was a band geek in high school, live vicariously through computers and prefer dogs to people, which means I have STELLAR social skills.