“Why do you take your child outside the house?”
This question is all too familiar for many autism parents. And while the people who ask it may not mean any harm or even realize they’re being rude, it’s still hurtful and offensive. Not sure what to say? Here are some ways to reply calmly and respectfully.
1. “GOING OUT SHOULD BE PART OF THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE.”
In saying that children with autism shouldn’t go out, people are basically saying they should be locked away in the home, hidden away like Rapunzel in her tower. What kind of life is that? By saying people with autism shouldn’t go out, we’re regressing to earlier times when those who didn’t conform were kept under lock and key and shoved to the perimeters of society. We can do better than that, and our children deserve better than that.
2. “IT HELPS MY CHILD ADJUST TO THE WORLD.”
“The only way to get over your fear is to face it.” You might have heard something along these lines when you were growing up, and–to a large degree–it’s true. That’s why phobias can often be treated with exposure therapy. Similarly, the only way for children with autism to get used to the world is to live in it and be exposed to all the environments and experiences it has to offer. That’s tough love.
3. “IT HELPS THE WORLD ADJUST TO MY CHILD.”
By the same token, the world needs to be exposed to children with autism. Countless myths and stereotypes abound; some think that people with autism are heartless and violent. The reality is, those with autism are much more likely to be bullied than bullies. Allowing children with autism to interact with the public allows people to see the truth. In addition, it enables society to embrace neurodiversity and accept those who see the world a bit differently.
4. “IT ENCOURAGES SPECTRUM-FRIENDLY EVENTS TO TAKE PLACE.”
Right now, it’s difficult for people with autism to go out because the world is made for the neurotypical population. But as acceptance toward and awareness of autism increases in society, this will hopefully change. We’re already beginning to see it as the prevalence and awareness of autism has risen. If we continue to raise our voices, it can only get even better from here.
5. “IT ENCOURAGES PEOPLE TO ASK QUESTIONS.”
If people don’t know much about autism, they may be compelled to ask an autism parent or individual on the spectrum about it. And that’s more than okay; in fact, it’s encouraged, so long as the questions are appropriate and polite. Good questions to ask include:
How can I best communicate with your child?
I don’t know what autism is. Can you tell me about it?
What kind of therapy have you found most effective?
Is there anything I can do to help?
Questions like this are sensitive to parents and children alike. Not only that, but they also encourage the spread of information. This results in a society that understands the spectrum…and can appreciate those on it.