There is a lot of hype around autism these days, and parents of children on the autism spectrum hear it all. "What causes autism?" "Can we cure it?" "Do we even want to cure it?" "If we say “neurotypical,” are we implying that autistic people are abnormal?" Even if you don’t have experience with autism yourself, chances are you’ve heard some variation of this omnipresent concern trolling. The list actually makes my eye twitch, which is why I'd appreciate if people stopped saying certain things about my autistic kid.
I am willing to accept the possibility that the hype has always been there, and I’m only aware of it now because I’m a mama to an autistic kiddo. Which, in addition to using identity-first language, has taught me so many other things.
In true mama-bear form, I have become one of those people who always talks about my kid. I spend an inordinate amount of time determining the functions of my 7 year old’s various behaviors. This determination requires a lot of external validation from friends (with or without kids), teachers, therapists, principals, and, well, you get the idea. That equals a whole heck of a lot of gabbing about my girl. I tend to be an external processor and hyper-analyzer anyway but, as parent to an autistic kiddo, this hyper-awareness and oversharing is a part of the job description.
Parents of autistic kids have to learn how to become advocates. They've often fought long and hard for someone to listen to their cries for help. Unfortunately, parents are often repeatedly gaslighted by certain individuals (like pediatricians) who are supposed to be helping us find resources. I can't even track how many times we were told our experiences with our daughter were just us being overly-sensitive or incompetent parents. It wasn't until we had a non-autistic kiddo that we realized it was the professionals who were wrong, not us.
The ability to talk to any and every body about our kid's struggles enabled us to find otherwise hidden resources. However, being so willing to engage also opens us up to unwanted, unnecessary, and sometimes downright offensive advice. The truth is, I’m way passed caring how well-meaning someone is. The knowledge that my kid is autistic is not license for you to leave common courtesy at home.
So, since you can’t read my mind, I’ve put together this handy-dandy (certainly not exhaustive) list which will help you make better choices next time your tongue is just itching to spread that fine bit of wisdom.