#ChangeTheReply: Speaking About Autism & Suggestions For Better Replies (May 30, 2019)
A few weeks ago, I made a post, and on one side was a pic of Jaiden and I, and on the other side was a list of hurtful replies I’ve gotten when I told people that Jaiden has Autism. Along with that post, I created the hashtag #ChangeTheReply, as a way to encourage and invite others in the Autism Community to share their experiences and the hurtful replies that they’ve received, as well as comments that they’re tired of hearing. The goal was to help start the conversation and to continue to spread more positive Autism Awareness and Acceptance. The responses proved that we’re not as alone as we think, and that although our journeys are different, there are things that tie us together and connect us.
There were also a few people that wanted to know what would be a better/appropriate response when someone shares that they or their child has Autism. So I wanted to take the opportunity to answer that question the best way I could. First, I know that there are a lot of people that still don’t know about Autism, and there are still many misunderstandings. The problem isn’t that someone doesn’t know, because I have no problem educating others on what I know about Autism or how it relates to myself and my son. However, there’s still a way to go about it and a way to not go about it. So what I did was look at the suggestions that people within the Autism Community made, and it all boils down to a very simple solution- just be kind, empathetic, and sympathetic to the parent, child, and person letting you know they have Autism, however young or old that individual is.
Before I give suggestions of what you can say, here’s a quick list of the top 3 people that go about it the wrong way (from personal and shared experiences):
1) People that look at the individual that has Autism with pity, as if they were just told that someone died.
2) People that think they know everything about Autism because they read an article/book or someone, somewhere in their family has Autism.
3) People that automatically become doctors, or they know a doctor, and suddenly they’re trying to prescribe medication, or tell you there’s a cure, or blame the vaccines. *Message to those in Group #3: The diagnosis is already done, whatever the “cause” was is not really important to us now. We just want to learn, love, and raise our kids, as they are, the best way that we can.
Now onto the better responses, which included:
1) “Oh, cool” or “Oh ok”- to help them feel like it’s not the end of the world, and so that we don’t have to play defense mode if you come at our child or someone with Autism the wrong way.
2) “I bet he/she is (amazing/great/some kind of positive compliment)”- because although you may not know the child, or much about Autism, at the end of the day, it’s still a child and a kind compliment goes a long way.
3) “What’s it like for you?” or “What’s it like for your child?”- show interest because if you don’t know about Autism, and you have the time to learn something new, why not take that opportunity? Because again, you meet one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism. Asking someone what their experience is like also kind of makes it seem like they have a friend, which is always nice.
Another thing that helps with changing the reply would be the way we in the Autism Community talk about Autism. Granted, some days are just tough/off and we’re not always in the mood to speak in a super positive way. But we as the parents have the power to control the conversation. So if we speak about our child and Autism in a more positive light, then the person that is receiving that information, or is at the other end of the conversation, is more likely to respond in a positive way. One way we can do that is if you introduce your child by saying something like, “This is my son/daughter (insert name here if you choose to), and he/she has Autism. He/she is (insert a kind adjective here), and he/she likes (insert their interest here/something that your child likes to do, there’s always something)”.
I just want to end this by saying Thank You to everyone who took the time to read this, and to those that have shared their stories, suggestions, and participated in #ChangeTheReply on our Social Media accounts. You are all greatly appreciated and I wish you the best of luck, love, and blessings in your journeys!