What Every Parent Wants Us To Know About Autism….And it may not be what you think

"Awareness simply means to acknowledge that Autism exists; Acceptance is to acknowledge its value."

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Autism has been very much in the public eye for the past several years. Many thanks comes from more media attention on its prevalence, as well as higher quality and earlier intervention services that are available. Yet, there’s still a lot of confusion running amok about Autism, so I’m here to clarify some of it. My hope is to reach millions of parents out there who feel exactly as I do about the wonderful world of Autism.

We Don’t Want Sympathy.

Parents of children with ASD aren’t asking for sympathy, or for other parents to feel sorry for them. They still struggle with getting their kids to bed on time and to eat their veggies for dinner. Really, when you think about it, parents of kids with Autism are more similar to parents of typically developing children than they are different.

Don’t Judge.

Ok, this one is easier said than done. I get it. Most of us will at least glance (while others may outright gawk) at a kiddo having a full-blown temper tantrum. I think part of this is just good ‘ol fashioned human nature. #Curiosity. But instead of staring or making a rash judgement, ask if you can lend an extra hand to help hold groceries, to push the cart, hold a door open, or even just as moral support while mom/dad tries to calm their child and de-escalate the situation.

We Don’t Want Parenting Advice.

Offering support or lending an ear is one thing, but sadly, many people think Autism is like a cold and it ‘goes away’ or the child will just ‘outgrow’ it. One thing I have remained true to is being the voice for parents. And what I’ve come to know over the years is that most parents have heard it all regarding advice. Most don’t want advice. They want encouragement. They want positivity. They need cheerleaders cheering them on, they need positive reinforcement for every small victory. They need a friend who offers comfort, a fresh cup of coffee and lends an ear.

Curb the “Alternative” treatments.

There are dozens of alternative treatments (some, can actually be deadly) that have been popping up in recent years for Autism. “Treatments” ranging from using hyperbaric chambers to using a bleach mixture. Yup, BLEACH. However, some alternative treatments like the GFCF diet are worthy of merit and many families have benefited from trying this diet for their little one. But, parents should be the #1 defining factor on whether to begin a treatment for their child. As I’ve advised thousands of parents over the years, discuss any treatment options with your child’s pediatrician before beginning them to weigh the pros and cons and to ensure they are safe.

There’s No Need to Yell.

I’ve often found it funny that most of us tend to talk louder when someone doesn’t understand us. And I am 100% #Guilty of doing this too. But, talking louder to a kiddo with ASD can actually be overstimulating for them, and can even cause behaviors. Instead, try using a dry-erase board, sign language, a pen and paper, PECS, hand/body gestures or slowing down your vocal speech while using a softer tone. I’m confident that once you take the time to figure out how a child best learns, you will feel empowered.

Yah, I Get It: My Kid Has “Behaviors”.

How many parents have gotten a note sent home with their kiddo stating that their son/daughter was “rowdy” or “wouldn’t sit still” or “kept escaping from their seat” or “had several tantrums”? Well, if you have, you certainly aren’t alone. Parents don’t want to be told that their child was tantruming or refusing to stay seated. This is not only exhausting, but it can be punishing for both parents and children when only negative behaviors are addressed. What parents need is for their child’s school to:

  1. Write down what their child did WELL that day
  2. Write down any areas for improvement
  3. Most importantly: parents want school administrators and instructors to have better quality training on Autism and its behaviors. Just like no two kiddos are exactly alike, administrators and teachers need to understand that no two kids with Autism are going to have the same behaviors, or the same interventions. One size does NOT fit all with Autism.

Treat Them Like You Would Any Other Kid.

I think one reason that we need more #AutismAcceptance rather than Autism awareness is that people need to understand that kids with Autism are kids FIRST! I’ve said it thousands of times, so here it goes again, “Autism Awareness simply means to acknowledge that Autism exists. However, Autism Acceptance means to acknowledge its value.” Kids with ASD are just like every other kiddo out there: they love to jump, play and laugh. They love to learn, they have hobbies, favorite TV shows and most of all….these kids have VALUE. Autism Acceptance leads to valuing these children as important members of our society.

We Are Just Like Every Other Family Out There.

We watch TV. We eat dinner with the news on. We love sleeping in on Saturdays. We check homework first before playtime. We have schedules. We hate chores. The only difference is that we have Autism. So, some of our schedules may be different than other peoples’. Our routines may be more rigid. If you’re our neighbor, you may hear shrieking at 8:00am on a Saturday morning if we forgot to record SpongeBob on the DVR. So, really we are much more alike than we are different from other families and all we really want is for others to know this.


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