When my son, Norrin, was diagnosed with autism my mom told me, "you don't have to tell everyone about it. It's no one's business." I just didn't see the point of keeping it a secret. From the beginning, I was open about it, willing to talk and answer questions. And as a blogger, I really open myself up for discussion — and scrutiny. Having a child with autism, people often have questions and opinions about what my life is like as a parent. Our parenting is often judged. From other parents, to family members, dealing with the Department of Education to the moments that matter most… here are some common reactions you may have seen from an autism mom like me.
1. On your way to (another) meeting with school district...
Meeting with the school district to discuss your child's needs and services can be stressful. But no matter how you're feeling you, you go prepared and you have your game face on.
2. How you feel when you've gotten every service you requested...
Dealing with the school district is never easy; you're basically sitting in a room full of strangers who feel they're best suited to determine the needs of your child — sometimes without actually knowing your child. Walking out victorious is worthy of a dance.
3. When your mother-in-law or some other family member says, "All your kid needs is a few months with me and I'll straighten them out."
Autism isn't something that can be beaten out of our kids or "straightened out." So if that's what you think, please keep your opinions to yourself. Thank you.
4. When a parent of a typical kid says, "Oh, that's all kids."
If my kid is having difficulty sitting down to do his homework, or separating from me, or potty training, it's not just a "kid" thing. It's often an autism thing. So don't dismiss our concerns because they are often a little more complicated.
5. When you see another online article about autism and what it may be linked to.
It seems like every other week there's some new study claiming to discover the autism link. I think the last one I read was linking autism to circumcised boys. (P.S. My son has autism and isn't circumcised.) These studies do nothing to serve our community in any way — except to scare new parents.
6. When someone says, "You really should teach them how to..."
As if we haven't tried to teach our kids how to [fill in the blank]. As if it's that easy to teach a child with autism something. But that person giving them their words of wisdom? Bless their heart...
7. "Are you sure? Your kid doesn't look autistic."
This person is trying to give your kid a compliment by pretty much saying your kid looks normal. Autism doesn't look like anything but they don't know that… so you just smile and say that yes, you are quite sure.
8. When someone uses the R-word or makes a joke about kids on the short bus.
There is nothing cool or funny about using disability as the punch line or as a insult. And if you know I have a special needs kid and you use this language, be prepared for what I will say next.
9. When someone says, "Oh I saw that Temple Grandin movie. Have you seen that yet? You should."
People who don't always understand autism want a way to connect. It's nice. But most autism parents have heard of Temple Grandin. They've probably read her book and have seen her biopic or have chosen not to. The reality is, not every kid with autism will grow up to become a Temple; they won't even come close. And that's OK.
10. "Do you think the vaccines have anything to do with your child's autism?"
NO. No, no, no. Nope! Because nothing makes an autism parent feel better than being blamed. And for the record, vaccines do not cause autism. Please educate yourself.
11. "Aren't you scared to have another baby? What if that one has autism, too?"
Yes — there WILL be someone who asks you this question. During my second pregnancy, I got this question a lot. I had a miscarriage at 16 weeks. If I ever got pregnant again, it wouldn't be autism that I'd fear.
12. When your child does something for the first time.
Having a child with autism, you watch them struggle to achieve the things that come so easily to their peers. When you see them do something for the first time, you know the work they put into it. So you laugh, you cry, you clap and tell everyone you know.