Friends and Family: What to say
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10 Things Parents with Loved Ones on the Autism Spectrum Would Love to Hear:

  1. What people say: “Maybe it’s a misdiagnosis – I’ve heard they are overdiagnosing things these days.”

    Better to say: “He’s lucky to have an observant parent learning about his needs. Thanks for trusting me enough to share this – I am here for you.”
     
  2. What people say: “Are you getting enough time for yourself?” 

    What we wish you’d say  – “Can you find time to catch a movie or have dinner out with me next week? If you can’t get out, can I come by?” 

     
  3. What people say: “I got him this gift – I know it’s technically a little young for him, but I thought that it might be more his level.”
    Better: Call ahead and ask what the child would like, or, when in doubt: gift card. 

     
  4. What people say: “Do you know whose family it came from?”
    Better to say:  Nothing. This is a deeply personal issue and with some disorders it’s still unclear if they stem from genes, environment, or both. Listen only to what the parent volunteers.
     
  5. What people say: “Life doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle.”
    Better to say: “So, when can I babysit?”
     
  6. What people say: “This is an opportunity: You just didn’t land where you expected, but landed. You thought you were going one place, but just ended up in another place. Have you seen that wonderful poem, ‘Welcome to Holland?’ “
    
Better to say: "I’m here if you want to talk."
     
  7. What people say: “Maybe he just needs a little more discipline.” 
    Better: Recognize that communication – particularly the ability to understand language receptively - can be an issue in some disabilities. This can look very different from the outside; try to resist passing judgment.
     
  8. What people say: “It’s too bad you didn’t find out sooner. I’ve heard the prognosis isn’t as good if they don’t catch it early.”
    Better to say: “Can I help by reading up on the current resources and research? I’d be interested in learning more and I’m happy to help fill out forms/laminate PECS/help with your laundry.”
     
  9. What people say: “I don’t know how you do it.” 

    Better to say:  “So – when’s our next playdate?”

     
  10. What people say: “So how is Junior (child with special needs)?”  Not asking about your other kids, family, etc.
    Better to say: “I love your holiday cards/Facebook posts/email updates. What’s the latest?”