As a society, we’ve taken some significant steps towards greater acceptance of individuals with autism spectrum disorder in recent years — from mainstream television portraying characters on the spectrum, to large corporations finding ways to better support the community. But despite increasing information and awareness, many people still may not know how to respond to an autism diagnosis in a way that reflects true understanding of the community and the experiences of those on the spectrum.
Even the things that are becoming more commonly known about autism — for example, the difficulty for some people on the spectrum to maintain eye contact or navigate social situations — can be detrimental to the community in the form of generalizations and stereotypes and ignoring an autistic individual’s unique experience.
To help foster more understanding, we asked our readers on the autism spectrum to share things they’ve heard that they wish others would stop saying.
Here’s what the community had to say:
1. “I really wish people would stop saying, ‘Oh, but you’re so normal.’ When people say this, it feels like it is discrediting all the work I have done to get to the point where I am almost ‘normal.’”
2. “‘I won’t have my child vaccinated. The risk of autism is just too high!’ Both myself, my younger brother and my son are on the spectrum. It’s so lovely to hear, on a regular basis, that parents would rather potentially expose their precious children to deadly diseases than have them ‘end up’ like me.”
3. “I wish people wouldn’t say, ‘Oh, but aren’t we all a little autistic?’”
4. “I hate it when people say I’m ‘acting crazy’ and ‘You need to calm down.’ Sensory overload isn’t fun, and even at my age, it still happens more often than not. It doesn’t make me ‘crazy,’ and I’m not overreacting. I just get overwhelmed.”
5. “I just asked my 9-year-old son, and he said he wished others would stop telling him to stop making his clicking noise because he likes the way it gives pressure in his mouth and he feels calm. He wishes other people better understood how he gets calm.”
6. “When I’m trying to explain the anxiety I feel about crowded places and loud noise and people minimize it by saying, “Well, yeah, I don’t like that either.” It’s as if I’m making a big deal out of something so menial, but they don’t get how my sensory sensitivities can cause me physical discomfort and distress. I’m not being dramatic.”
7. “When people tell me I don’t have feelings or shouldn’t/cant have emotions. I most certainly do have emotions, it just takes me a little longer to understand them.”
8. “I wish people would stop saying, ‘Are you sure you actually have Asperger’s/ASD?’ People are so quick to judge someone’s current situation, not understanding where they came from and what it took them to get where they are today.”
9. “‘So and so’s son/daughter has autism, but theirs is much more severe than yours.’ Just because you cannot always see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.”
10. “‘You’re incapable of knowing what others are actually saying, thinking, or feeling’ — said the people who hurt me the deepest throughout my life.”
11. “My personal favorite: ‘Oh, I know someone with autism.’ *Person continues to ramble generic stereotypes like a lecture and ignore you as an individual.*”
12. “‘I am so sorry you have that.’ There is nothing to be sorry about. Autism is another way that the world is looked at.”
13. “‘You must be like Rain Man, then!’ No. I’m legit not.”
14. “My kid wishes other kids would stop using the word ‘autistic’ as an insult.”
15. “A schoolteacher told me my Asperger’s is an ‘excuse.’”
16. “’Can you please look me in the eye?’ No, I can’t.”
17. “My 11-year-old daughter said, ‘I don’t like it when people say I can’t do something. I can do anything. It might be harder and take longer because my brain needs more time, but I can do it.’”
Image via Thinkstock.