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Teachers, Please Stop Saying Autistic Behaviors Are a Result of Poor Parenting

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I don’t want to hear one more teacher, social worker or behavior therapist say, “Any behavior problems this kid has at home have nothing to do with us — it’s all poor parenting.

For goodness sake, shouldn’t it be a basic requirement that those people working with our autistic children actually understand the most basic features of autism? Shouldn’t they know how hard school can be for some of our children? That the speed and volume of the curriculum, and the sensory and social demands placed on them can outstrip their ability to cope? All professionals who work with autistic children should know this, but most don’t seem to have more than an academic grasp of the unique way of learning that can accompany autism. Shouldn’t they know you cannot judge how an autistic student is feeling on the inside by the way they look on outside?

Since approximately no percentage of educators fully understand the implications and features of social communication deficits in speaking autistic students of average intelligence or higher, they should never ever be allowed to make editorial comments about how our children are feeling.

They certainly cannot judge how our kids are managing by their facial expressions, tone of voice, or body language — because those are examples of nonverbal communication, and our kids don’t communicate how they are feeling using those essential aspects of communication. (And by essential, I mean that fully 93 percent of communication involves those things. Only 7 percent involves the actual words we use.)

Teachers et al should also not insist the student is “fine” because , well, they asked them and the answer from the student was, “I’m good.”

Is that a surprise? Saying yes when you mean no, no when you mean yes, an inability to say what you need, or explain what you don’t know? This is what our autistic students often do! Autism is a communication disorder! Confusing? Yes… if you don’t know autism.

Look, here’s the thing. Children on the autism spectrum are easily traumatized. They need great teachers working with them from the get-go. We don’t need teachers who know everything, but we do need professionals who listen to parents, who are creative, and who are open to learning things that are new to them.

Teachers, social workers, and others who would rather blame parenting when they can’t find any other answers should not be allowed to work with our children or with us. It does harm to the students and to the family dynamic. Do these hard-working parents a big favour: if you can’t help, at least do no harm. Don’t tell parents their kid is fine when she’s tearing the house apart because she is so terrified of going to school. Don’t insist that everything is great because he smiles and does his work, when every night, he tells his parents he’d rather die than go to school.

So yeah, many students with ASD, after struggling to keep it together all day at school, let it go the moment they cross the threshold of the safest place they know. This is the place where people know them best, the place where people try to understand them rather than shaming them for the things they cannot yet do. This is their home.

Getty image by AOtzen

Originally published: July 17, 2019
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