Why I Said I'm Sorry When You Told Me Your Child Was Diagnosed With Autism


A couple of months ago I was talking with an acquaintance. We hadn’t known each other for very long, but we had common interests and enjoyed each other’s company.

She knew my son had an autism diagnosis, and she felt comfortable talking with me. She told me her son was just diagnosed as well.

Before I could think, I said, “Oh man. I’m sorry to hear that.”

As soon as the words passed my lips, I knew it was the wrong thing to say. She gave me an odd look, and I immediately started to backtrack.

This type of blunder is nothing new to me. I’ve never been good at politically correct language. But nevertheless, our conversation has weighed heavily on my mind.

What I said is true. I am sorry to hear her son was diagnosed with autism, but not because I believe autism is such a terrible condition to have.

I’m raising four children. And all of them have “issues.” Two of them recently became teenagers and may not make it through the week if their attitudes don’t clear up.

Autism can be a tough diagnosis to navigate, and I know some of the feelings she might experience in the months to come.

So when I said, “I’m sorry,” this is what I really meant:

I’m sorry you might start researching your child’s condition only to become more confused than you already are. I’m sorry there might be more questions than answers.

I’m sorry you might feel the need to become a geneticist, neurologist, psychologist, gastroenterologist and a lawyer all at once. I’m sorry for the feelings of guilt and inadequacy you might experience.

I’m sorry your insurance might not approve the treatment you’re seeking, and you may have to fight tooth-and-nail to get the services your child deserves.

I’m sorry you may feel alone sometimes, because you think nobody understands what you’re going through. I’m sorry you may lie in bed at night and wonder what more you could be doing.

I’m sorry that rude people may stare at your family when you go out to enjoy yourselves. I’m sorry that autism awareness isn’t the same thing as autism acceptance.

I’m sorry that, at some point, you may find yourself trapped in a never-ending debate on vaccines.

That’s what I meant when I said, “I’m sorry.”

But it still wasn’t the right thing to say.

It’s not my job to dump all of that negative energy on a mom who’s just starting her journey through the autism spectrum. It’s my job to smooth her path.

Now that I’ve had some time to reflect, I know what I’ll say the next time:

Thank you for sharing that with me! How are you feeling about the diagnosis?

This will open so many doors for your little one. Let me know if you have any questions. Here’s my number. Feel free to call or text me anytime.

Our area has a wonderful support network full of parents ready to help each other. I’d love to introduce you to some of them. We have parent meet-ups and family events all the time. I’ll get you on the mailing list.

I’m here for you, anytime you want to talk.

Welcome to our tribe.

Follow this journey at Not an Autism Mom


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