This post originally appeared on The Journey Through Autism. It is re-posted here with permission.
Throughout my life, I have been told and have overheard many comments regarding Autism. These comments aren’t usually meant to be mean, but rather show a lack of knowledge and understanding of Autism. Even though people aren’t meaning to upset me, I still hurt. I have also heard some great things that make my day. Here are a some things that I have heard over the years and how I feel about them.
5 things to NEVER say to someone with Autism:
1. “Don’t worry, everyone’s a little Autistic.”
No. The number is one in sixty-eight. We’re not all a little Autistic. There are countless struggles that I deal with on a daily basis and comparing Autism-related struggles to other struggles is just plain insulting. You have no idea what it’s like… and you’ll never know.
2. “You must be like Rainman or something.”
Here we go again… not everyone on the spectrum is a genius. Rainman was about a man who had savant skills. According to the Autism Research Institute, 10% of people with Autism have savant skills. Not everyone is that smart. Some might be smarter, but not genius. All it does is make me wonder why I can’t be a genius.
3. “Do you take medication for that?”
This breaks my heart every time I hear it. I feel upset that people think that medication is always involved. And besides, I learned a great lesson from my cousin. She went through a recent health crisis and said “taking medication prescribed by a psychiatrist is no different than taking medication for heart disease or to fight an infection. You take it so you can be healthy and safe!”
4. “I have social issues too. I must have Autism.”
Sure, you may have social issues or you may have sensory difficulties, or something else like I do. But to compare yourself to me with all of my difficulties is rude and shows a complete lack of understanding of Autism.
5. “You seem so normal! You don’t look Autistic.”
How does someone with Autism look? What physical characteristics make someone look like they have Autism? None.
Credit to AutisticNotWeird: Let’s play a game. Below are six kids. One of them has classic Autism, one has Asperger’s Syndrome, and one has a spectrum disorder (GDD). The other three don’t have Autism. Get diagnosing! (The answers are at the end of the article).
Not easy, right!
5 things TO say to someone with Autism:
1. “Do you need help with anything?”
I love this one. It shows that the person who is asking cares about me. I know that they are willing to go out of their way to make me comfortable. I feel respected. It often even makes my day!
2. “Oh, that explains a lot about …why you touch the ground” or “why you walk back and forth.”
Saying that my diagnosis explains some specific behaviors is a good thing to say. I know that by sharing my diagnosis, I end up answering questions of the people that I often find myself interacting with.
3. “Can you explain what Autism is to me?”
This is a great one as well. Many people decide to believe stereotypes of Autism, which are often wrong. By asking me to explain what Autism is, they can get an accurate answer that they can share.
4. “I’m here if you want to talk.”
This goes back to the first one. I know that the person who is asking is thinking about me and is extending themselves as a resource. What a simple, but kind and generous act! Sometimes, I even use their help if I need it.
5. “Do you want to come and eat lunch with us?”
As I have said in a previous blog post, I don’t have many friends at school. So, I love it when people ask me to join them for lunch. I can try it out, and if I like it, do it again. This provides me with much needed social interaction.
And by the way, kids numbers one, two, and three have Autism.
About the Author
Ethan Hirschberg is a teenager with high functioning Autism. In March 2017, he started a blog called The Journey Through Autism where he shares his personal experiences, insight, and advice to individuals on the spectrum, parents, caregivers, educators, and providers. Please check out his blog, The Journey Through Autism, by clicking here!