If you’re a parent of an autistic child, then I can relate.
Not with you. With your child.
And that’s hard. I wish I could empathize with what it’s like to raise autistic and neurodivergent kids. But I do wish to help.
I’m an autistic adult who was once an autistic child. See above for proof.
The ‘doing’ of parenting, so I’ve discovered, is hard as a whole. That said, some things are easy.
Talking is easy.
But for all we do and learn about talking about your autistic kids, or getting them to talk, or figuring out why they talk to themselves, or (as it was in my case) getting them to stop talking — we don’t think about what autistic kids want to hear.
Here’s what we need to hear:
“I’m glad you’re different.”
“It gets better.”
“How can I help?”
“Help me understand.”
“I’m still learning. This is OK.”
“Here’s why [literally any change, reason, direction, etc]. . . “
“I know you’re worried; here’s what we can do.”
“Normal is easy, but it’s boring. You deserve better.”
“[DEEP SIGH]. I’m not mad at you. I just need a deep breath to be my best self here.”
“You know we’re both still learning?”
“Could you tell me more? It might help, and I’m listening.”
“Take some time; it’s OK to need some space.”
[Precise, sequential, unambiguous directions]
“That’s a good question – I don’t know.”
“Here’s what I appreciate about you.”
“I won’t make you feel bad about this.”
“You know, I struggled with this too.”
“This might be hard, but I believe you can do it.”
“Would you like to try [xyz]?”
“Here’s what I mean by [idiom].”
“It’s OK to need help; it really does.”
“What are you looking forward to today?”
“I can negotiate on x, and y, but not z, ok?”
“Here’s what I’m thinking, and I’m just thinking here . . .”
“This is why I couldn’t tell you about [x] sooner.”
“I’m sorry this didn’t go as expected – it surprised me too.”
“You’re not wrong about this.”
“I’m glad you are you.“
“Can you help me understand why [xyz] makes you upset (or happy)?”
“I love you — and here’s why I do.”
If you’re a parent of autistic children (or even if you aren’t!), I’m glad you found this blog. Parents like you have told me it has been helpful, and that’s encouraging to hear. If you want to learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic – or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram. Thanks.
3 thoughts on “What Every Autistic Child Needs to Hear: The Autism Talk We Don’t Talk about Enough”
Hunter, I’m a mom who only recently identified that we’ve been raising an autistic “kid”. I put kid in quotes because they’re 17 and we all just discovered this two years ago. We just knew well before this that our kid was wicked smart! Talking about this together and being very open to conversation has been crucial, and I am constantly asking for grace, a reminder to my kid that I’m learning how to parent differently too and I won’t always get it right. Thank you for a few new phrases to help us kick off our conversations in a way that feels good for us all. I believe the one I’ll use most is “[DEEP SIGH]. I’m not mad at you. I just need a deep breath to be my best self here.” I know my kid recognizes my frustration in my voice and so do I, this gives me a nice way to speak the truth of it and pause to get it right. Thoroughly appreciating hearing your adult perspective to help me be a better Mom to my “kid”!
That’s so awesome to hear – it’s never too late to make a big difference. ❤️
Man, I cried a little just reading this. I really do wish someone said those things to me before I learned to say them to myself out of necessity.