To the People Who Say There’s Something ‘Wrong’ With My Autistic Son


“If I didn’t know, I would never sense there was something wrong with him.”

When I receive this feedback from others concerning my son being on the spectrum, I now perceive it as a backhanded compliment. Before, I came to peace with excusing other people’s choice of vocabulary. It stung.

“Wrong with him.”

I recently referred to the reliable Merriam-Webster for a definition of “wrong,” just out of curiosity. Among the definitions were:

— not according to the moral standard

— not right or proper according to a code, standard, or convention

— not according to truth or facts

First, I must state I despise that our society has an ongoing push for political correctness. I am all for advocating social progress, because America definitely needs work, but I also can’t imagine living my life under constant scrutiny of how something can be considered offensive.

I am also not one who will be offended if you want to label my son “autistic.” I know there are many parents who are outraged when their loved one on the autism spectrum is referred to as autistic. “My son with autism” would be acceptable, “autistic” would not. The word is used to describe the developmental disability, and I don’t see the need to clarify the adjective. I think Alex Lowery covers this topic well.

But “wrong.”

The definition of “wrong” implies that my son is immoral, improper and incorrect. While I can agree that he can behave improperly, I find the other adjectives to be harsh and inaccurate.

To define a developmental disability as “wrong” is absurd in my opinion. Autism is many things: challenging, emotional, unique, intriguing, isolating, adventurous, extraordinary, frustrating. I am constantly blown away by my son’s brilliance.

He can remember someone’s name after hearing it just once. I know most adults, especially heavy business networkers, would love to have this skill. If he places an item (like a marble) in a hidden spot in the house, he will remember exactly where he placed it if I ask him a month later. He has a running inventory of where all 40-plus balls are in the house. He has known all of his shapes, letters and numbers since he was 2, including trapezoids, parallelograms and rhombuses. If there is a candy sprinkle on the floor 20 feet away, he can spot it.

Regardless of where anyone falls on the spectrum, I can’t fathom equating their value as “wrong.” When I think of “wrong,” I think of consequences that were the result of poor decision-making. Being on the autism spectrum isn’t a choice.

You can label me overly sensitive, but please rethink labeling my son “wrong.” Different isn’t wrong. But your choice of words might be.

Kelli Hrivnak

A version of this post first appeared on Auptimist.

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