What Every Autistic Child Needs to Hear: The Autism Talk We Don’t Talk about Enough

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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.”

“I’m sorry.”

“How can I help?”

[Not yelling]

“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.”

“Thank 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.