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.

 

 

The Life Autistic: Say No More

IMG_5762.JPGYou’ve been quiet today, H2.

Yeah, I know.

It happens.

Even to the most adapted, “high-functioning,” disciplined folks in The Life Autistic.

Sometimes we just stop talking. 

There’s a condition that some autistic folks either have or express: selective mutism, which is more or less a way of clamming up, shutting up, and shutting down.

I honestly can’t speak for those with selective mutism; the only experience I can speak to is mine own.

There are days when I’m embarrassed about how much I talk.

There are times when I feel I’m the only one speaking in turn, turning a conversation into a monologue.

There are instances where I say something I shouldn’t and feel the sting of embarrassment flooding my face.

There are topics in which no one responds.

Those things mute me.

Like a locking vice on my jaw, I feel myself close down and shrink in those moments.

And I say nothing or less than nothing.

Not that the words aren’t there.

Not that I don’t want to contribute again.

The Life Autistic has with it an odd voice, sometimes blistering, boisterous, effusive, monotone, polyphonic.

But when shuttered, it is withdrawn.

It doesn’t last forever.

And in fact, sometimes it brings out the voices of others.

You’ve been quiet today, H2.

Is…everything OK?

That is the start to making things OK.