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3 Well-Meaning Questions Not to Ask the Parent of a Child With Autism

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Parents of children on the autism spectrum know you mean well. We honestly do. We appreciate you trying to learn the lingo that is all too familiar within the autism community. We appreciate you reaching out. We need that. We need friends just like everyone else. So, how do you break the ice with your new friend that has a kid with autism? It’s not that hard. Do the same things you would do with any other parent. Talk about things that have nothing to do with being a parent. Talk about music, sports, cooking, hobbies, or things in the news. We were experienced adults before we became parents, just like you.

After a time, you will inevitably enter into the murky waters of disability conversations. It is only natural that you will want to ask your friend some autism-related questions. We encourage it. However,  just because a term is commonly used, it doesn’t make it the right question to ask. Should you find yourself in this place, here is a short list of questions to avoid asking your new friend:

1. Is your child high functioning or low functioning?

These labels are used way too often within the autism community and society. They shouldn’t be. This question lacks humanity and respect. Kids — all kids — are humans, not appliances.

Instead ask this: What does your kid love to do? What are their interests?  It is also OK to ask about what their kid struggles with, tries to avoid, or is afraid of.

2. Where is he on the spectrum?

Yes, autism spectrum disorder is a real diagnosis,  but the term “spectrum” is vague. We honestly have no way of answering that question intelligently.  What are we supposed to say, green?

Instead ask this: What can I do to help your child feel comfortable playing with my child?

3. Avoid questions that involve future projections or placement.

Yes, we have thought about what will happen to them when we die. Yes, we are worried. Yes, we spend a good part of every day helping them learn life skills. We have hope for our kids just like you do for yours. We don’t ask your 10-year-old where he/she is going to college, so don’t ask us to know the future any more than you do. Let us hold on to our hope.

Instead, let the kid dream. Let the parent dream. Be a kind and supportive friend. Believe in them and their kids. In my experience,  the world holds possibilities and positive realities for both.

Getty image by Fizkes.

Originally published: June 30, 2021
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