I'm sure you've heard of the recent "Sh#t People Say" video meme. I've only seen a couple, but one popped up on my FB feed a couple days ago that is dead on. This video is by Stim Nation, posted on YouTube, and shared with me by the ever-amazing, totally-gets-it stark.raving.mad.mommy. This is SO funny, in a "sad that it has to be pointed out" kind of way:
I shared this on my FB page, and immediately came up with more things I could add to this list of inappropriate comments. Only, many of my ideas would fall under the heading of "Cr@p Ignorant People Say To Parents of Autistic Kids." Here are some of the lulus I've heard, or friends of mine have heard:
Regarding behavior and maturity:
"He just needs to grow up."
(Um, no - the delay in maturity is PART of his autism spectrum disorder.
You can't force maturity.)
"Maybe if you disciplined him more he wouldn't act that way."
(And you'd whip him into shape in a week, right? You wouldn't last two
days, my dear.)
"Just spank him, and he'll stop."
(Actually, no, it didn't stop his behavior. It made it worse, so we stopped
trying it a long time ago.)
"You know, that kind of behavior could land him in jail when he grows up."
(Thank you for combining in one comment every responsible parent's worst
fear, a general condemnation of our parenting skills to date, and a put-down
of our intelligence and understanding of the possible future consequences
of his choices.)
"Does anyone else in your family act that way?"
(Are you related? No? Then you shouldn't even ask that question. I
certainly won't answer you, or ask you if others in your family also
ask obnoxious personal questions to casual acquaintances.)
"He acts just like his (father/grandfather/cousin/grandmother/aunt/
mother/distant relative) who had "problems."
(You may know us, but THAT was uncalled for. And maybe they had
undiagnosed issues that no one ever knew about to help them with.
Diagnosis or not, how understanding were YOU about them?)
Then there are the fun and games of sensory issues, especially dietary ones,
that most people feel free to comment about at some point:
"Just make him eat it."
(Yes, I tried that. Projectile vomiting at the dinner table got real old,
"If he won't eat what you put in front of him, let him go hungry."
(That didn't work either. You severely underestimate the determination
and stamina of a kid with sensory issues and autism, and the choice
hell of low blood sugar on top of that.)
"Someday he'll grow up and eat like a normal person."
(And would a "normal" diet be exactly what you eat? Are you a dietician?
"Normal" for which culture or philosophy? Gimme a break - if he eats a
healthy assortment of food throughout the day and week, and is polite
about what he cannot/will not eat, we're good.)
And gross generalizations:
"You do know that Aspergers is way over-diagnosed, right?"
(Why no, we just wanted to add a nifty label to our son for the rest of his
life, visit various doctors and specialists just for the heck of wasting our
time and money, go through the process of testing and diagnosis so we
could have reams of paper proving that our son is different and needs
extra services in school, and assume a burden of worry and stress
about him well beyond normal human endurance.)
"He's not autistic, he's just selfish and immature."
(So are you for saying that.)
"Wow, he must be really good at math."
(Been watching "Rain Man" or "Numb3rs" recently, have you? If you're
nice, I might volunteer the information that he has a math learning
disability, but is doing very well anyhow, thank you.)
"I bet he'll be a scientist someday."
("Big Bang Theory," anyone? Although we've had fun discussing which
past and present inventors, scientists and innovators we think probably had
Aspergers, like Thomas Edison, and Bill Gates. And Safety Guy would
probably make a great safety engineer, so you might be right.)
"Have you tried horseback riding therapy for him?"
(No, but thanks for the suggestion - it's a good one, but he's not into
unpredictable large animals, although that therapy has helped many people
with autism and other disabilities.)
"He needs a dog."
(We considered that, but it just wasn't right for us. Thanks, though -
that's another good one that really has helped many kids with autism.)
"Does he take things apart and reassemble them?"
(No, although he's interested in how things work. Just ask him about fire
alarms. Go ahead, I dare you.)
And, since we home schooled him for 6 years to address his sensory and
"If he'd been in public school, he might be better by now."
(The snarky answer: You must live near the best school for kids with
autism on the planet - why don't all of us with kids on the spectrum
move to your district? What's the housing market like there? Can we
arrange a play date with your kids?
The short answer: There is no cure for autism, there is only gradual
progress over time - sometimes a LOT of time.
The long answer: If we'd been convinced that public school
was the best place, we wouldn't have pulled him out. But the fact that he
could hear everything for three classrooms around, was confused and
scared by large noisy crowds, was overwhelmed by the social
expectations in large groups, and was flat-out terrified by the
unpredictable fire alarms swayed us to seek a calmer, more controlled
environment for his education. The teachers were great - it was the
physical environment that was the biggest barrier to his education.
"If he'd been in public school, you'd be better off by now."
(The snarky answer: You can't know that for sure. And if you could
see the future all those years ago, why didn't you TELL me then? Pfft.
The short answer: This decision wasn't about me.
The long answer: If you mean we'd be better off financially, that's true.
But this wasn't a financial decision. If you mean emotionally, there's a
grain of truth to that as well. Raising a child with an autism spectrum
disorder is exhausting in body, mind, and soul, and frankly it's wicked
hard on a marriage. Home schooling compounded that issue. But I
repeat: this wasn't about just me. It was about what was best for
our son and for our family as a
"It's because he's been sheltered."
(Yeah, he was sheltered by socializing with people of all ages across
multiple situations and learning with lessons tailored to his skills and
interests using multiple learning styles and group classes and
extracurricular activities and field trips. . . .)
(Random thought: someone needs to make a
Mythbusters episode spoof about home schooling.)
Please don't get me wrong - I'm glad to talk with people about our son's
Aspergers. And people who really care about our family get a "pass" for
the occasional abrasive statement. Anyone can blurt out something
inappropriate then regret it, and learn how to better ask the questions they
have. And I'll admit it - sometimes we're a bit hypersensitive about people
asking questions, after some of the lulus we've fielded. I'm okay with advice
from people who know our son, too. It's all in the delivery and the
assumptions behind the comments. If the premise is, "Maybe they don't
know this new research or therapy, and maybe they'd be interested in
hearing about it," I'm okay with that. Just don't assume that you know
better about my child than my husband and I do. Don't assume he's
somehow less intelligent or somehow defective because of his quirks
and issues. If you don't know, don't comment. Don't assume if you're
not sure, just ask us (or ask our son - he really can speak for himself).
Trust me, my husband and I would be happy to talk to you about how
autism and Aspergers really affects our son and our lives. The cure for
ignorance is education. (I also promise to suppress the urge to smack
repeat offenders up 'side the head.)