Speaking to one of my clients recently, we came to the topic of April having been Autism Awareness Month. Autism counselling is a useful tool to work through the special needs associated with children on the spectrum. The conversation turned to her experience as a parent to an amazing nine-year-old girl with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and how others (whether strangers, family, friends or school teachers) often respond to that fact.

So I posed the question: ‘What would you say is the Top 5 things, I should never say to a parent of an ASD child?’ and here are her answers…..

1#       “All children do that”

Yes, your non-ASD child might also do that BUT….. the difference is in the GRAVITY of the action and behaviour – for ASD kids it is EXTREME.

2#       “She just needs a good slap”

With this you are really saying that it is my parenting that is at fault – and it is not. I parent as best as I can. It is not my parenting – she is a child with speical needs. Please do not blame me.

3#       “Shell eat when she’s hungry”

No, actually she won’t. She will literally starve herself. Some kids (and I’m not talking babies or toddlers) will actually end up on milk formula due to this.

4#       “My child has meltdowns too”

There is a difference between meltdowns and tantrums – and it is in the extremity of it. When I say my child had a meltdown, I don’t mean a tantrum. Tantrums are behavioural. Meltdowns are neurological. During a meltdown she is not concerned with her safety; bribes don’t work; and she just doesn’t care about what I might do.

5#       “But she looks so normal”

This tells me you don’t believe me that she has special needs. All I ask is that you be respectful of it really.

I want to thank my client for being so open and for allowing me to share this with you.

Next time you see a parent struggling with a child that appears out of control, please think twice about judging. They are doing the best they can.