I must begin by saying I know that these things are mostly said in good faith, usually from someone who’s simply trying to help, or from someone who doesn’t really know what to say. But it can often feel like all people see when they look at your kid is their diagnosis/provisional diagnosis; yet when you look at your child you see the entire world. They’re so much more than a label. They’re what they can do – not what they can’t – that goes for every kid and every adult with or without Autism.
Sometimes you just want to talk to people about average stuff, like shit TV programmes or “When can we next get drunk? For the love of God when? Please.” Hearing certain unhelpful comments on a day-to-day basis can get extremely tiring.
1. “Have you tried Vitamins?”
I’ve lost count of the times someone pushing a certain brand tried to send me a testimonial from a parent of a child on the spectrum who found that the brand’s own vitamins were the answer to their prayers – but this parent just so happens to be a brand rep herself – and this isn’t anything against them, but just fucking don’t.
There’s also the Omega-3 lovers. “Maybe she needs more Omega-3. It’s really great, it not only helps bones and teeth grow, it replenishes brain cells and…” Go away. You cannot Omega-3 the learning delay or social unawareness out of a person. No matter how many of those special Birds Eye fish fingers we end up eating on days I can’t be arsed cooking.
2. “One day they might have a cure for it!”
And if they did, I wouldn’t want it! This might be hard to understand, but I love my daughter as she is. I’m proud of the fact she speaks her mind, doesn’t pretend to like people she’s not keen on just because those people are well-liked by others. She’s hilariously blunt. She doesn’t follow fashion, or *get* things that are beyond her age. Her innocence might not always be so endearing, as one day she’ll be an adult, but right now it’s great. Although her condition doesn’t define her, there are certain areas where it has shaped her. She has a beautiful mind, soul and outlook on everything. I don’t want a cure for it.
I realise for some parents, with how wide the spectrum is and the difficulties it can present, this may not be the case. I read an article once by a mum who said she hates these kinds of uplifting-embrace-the-quirkiness-of-Autism posts, because at the hands of a physically aggressive teenage son – her reality is totally different – and if they came up with a cure she would totally want to find out more. I guess for that mum the “one day they might have a cure for it!” is also unhelpful, because what’s one day, tomorrow? One day in 3017?
3. “She doesn’t seem Autistic.”
Believe it or not, this isn’t a compliment. It’s not uplifting. I don’t feel thankful to you for saying it. I went through years of people thinking I was a neurotic mother, worrying over nothing, it was in my imagination, and constantly hearing “oh don’t worry, it’ll just be a phase” (which would have made this list, but people seem to have realised, now she’s 7, it’s very much not a phase.) When I was finally listened to and taken seriously, a weight was lifted. Although I always *knew*, it’s still taken a while to come to accept. And some days are hard, man. When you say that shit you’re undermining the struggle it can be. Oh, she doesn’t seem it? Then what the hell have I been crying about?
4. “My *neurotypical child* has tantrums and meltdowns too.”
But are they on the same colossal scale? Are they fuelled by anxieties over the most minor changes to their daily routine? Do they last hours and take over the house? Is your kid in school?
If so, fair play. I’ll shut up.
5. “How do you know?”
This one is more understandable and doesn’t really annoy me as much as the others. People are naturally curious, and that’s great. But the spectrum is so huge and there are a few conditions within it, such as Aspergers and PDA, if I sat and gave you the signs and symptoms I spotted with my own child which made me make that initial doctors appointment, it wouldn’t be a fair representation – you might think that’s Autism is about, and I don’t want to mislead you. I strongly urge you to do your own research and find as much as you can. Afterall, education is how we’re going to get society to the place it should be in terms of acceptance and awareness.