10 Things To Know When We Say Our Child Has Autism
There’s this look people get when you tell them your child is on the spectrum. This pity/sympathy look (depending on the authenticity of the heart of the human you are telling) that always shows up the second this label is attached to the ones you are responsible for.
In fairness, it’s a look my wife and I both felt when we were told our twins were on the spectrum. It’s a look I believe comes from a misunderstanding of what autism actually is, because despite the fact it’s held a significant definition in our world for the last four years, it’s not one we had any experience with before we met it face-to-face, times two.
So, in the hopes the following may help you, dear reader, the next time you hear a certain label of diagnosis, here are the 10 Things We Wish You Knew When We Tell You Our Child Has Autism:
1. Autism Is Not the Worst Thing In The World
Autism does not mean our child is dying. Please save the gravity of this look for those who are bearing tragic diagnoses and dealing with children who are facing far more severe labels, like cancer or leukemia.
2. Autism Is Not Just One Thing… Autism Is A Spectrum
An incredibly large and unique and diverse spectrum that can mean a million different things for each and every child. No two children on the spectrum are exactly alike, just like no two humans out there are, so please avoid assumptions and classifications you’ve typically jumped to beforehand.
3. Autism Is Not An Epidemic
It did not just show up over the last two decades. Yes, maybe the research and resources made available because of that research have been more prominent over the last two decades, but it did not just show up. It’s been studied for more than 80 years, and the results of this research are merely starting to make a notable difference for those with the diagnosis.
4. Autism Does Not Mean Our Children Are Not Engaging, Loving, Or Able To Connect With Others
Yes, autism has been defined as a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges—but it does not mean it always does, has, or will for every child on the spectrum. Many children on the spectrum are the sweetest, most loving, and engaging with those who they trust, feel safe with, and let into their world.
While we are so often working with those on the spectrum on how to form relationships with those outside the spectrum, we should be spending equal amounts of time encouraging those not on the spectrum to work on forming relationships with children like ours.
5. Autism Does Not Mean A Lack Of, Or Inability To Have, Empathy
In fact, those on the spectrum experience extreme empathy. Our son can often feel crippled with empathy when he bears witness to someone he cares about being harmed in anyway, even if only emotionally.
6. Autism Does Not Mean Someone Is Incapable, Has A Low IQ, And/Or Significant Learning Delays
Although for some there are learning delays and lower IQs, many on the spectrum are actually brilliant.
7. Autism Does Not Mean Someone Has A Special Gift, Either
Yes, many on the spectrum, because they are differently wired, have a special skill or ability that makes them a savant in a certain area of interest, but this is not necessarily true for all on the spectrum.
8. Autism Can Not Be Outgrown
Autism is not something a person is diagnosed with as a child that they outgrow, like an allergy or a bad habit. As children are worked with at a young age, because of the incredible resources out there for those with the diagnosis, they develop the strategies to adapt as expected in social and educational settings.
They are taught about their place on the spectrum, and worked with closely to help build their awareness around where their strengths are that they can rely on, and the areas in which they will need to apply extra energy throughout life so those delays/deficits do not keep them from finding success.
9. Autism Is Rarely Found In Girls
Statistically, 1 in 68 school children are on the spectrum, but 4 out of every 5 of those are boys. It’s not that autism is rarely found in girls, it’s rarely diagnosed because it often goes undetected. For girls on the spectrum it’s found to be an internal battle, versus the external one for the male counterparts. We are taught from a young age about the importance of ‘being a good girl’ and ‘acting like a lady,’ along with so many other scripts fed to females in ways males are not.
If the awareness and education of what autism can look like internally throughout the spectrum was taught, but also supported and understood, perhaps girls would feel comfortable sharing how they were actually feeling, thinking, and coping from a young age, where their voices would be allowed and heard. If this social shift were to occur, I feel in my heart those numbers of 1 in 68 would not only shift, but the 4 out of 5 would as well.
10. Autism Is Not Because Of How I, Or My Wife, Have Parented Our Children
In the 1950s—when society got many things wrong, might I add—they had the audacity to propose the ‘refrigerator mother hypothesis,’ suggesting that autism is caused by mothers who weren’t ’emotionally warm.’ I promise you our children have been loved, with the most ’emotionally warm’ hearts, not by just one, but TWO mothers, since before they were even conceived.
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Christina Young. You can follow their journey on Instagram and their website. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more from Christina:
‘Last night we learned of the death of a toddler his age as we watched the news. Emergency rooms aren’t filled with kids like him.’: Mom of special needs child says ‘the least I can do is keep my family out of your care’
‘Your grandma has spiked a fever.’ ‘The nursing home was hit with COVID-19. My fierce, stubborn 98-year-old Italian little woman of a Nana fell victim.’: Woman mourns grandma lost to Covid-19, ‘Today Nana left us and my heart is broken’
‘He’ll yell ‘Buh-bye, see you later!’ He is showing her his love by letting her in his bubble, despite how painful it is for him.’: Mom of autistic son says sibling’s bond ‘is like two pieces to a puzzle’
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