This post was inspired by the book: There Is No Good Card For This: What To Say and Do When Life is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People you Love by Kelsey Crowe Ph.D. and Emily McDowell
*This post is not sponsored, I just feel that this is an excellent book and one that everyone should read.
It is no secret that I am pretty open about Mr. M's diagnosis. However, I have to say, I have gotten better about not blurting it out within the first five minutes of every conversation.
Why am I so open do you ask? Because it is such a big part of our lives and I'm really not great at coming up with witty ways of saying it without saying it, so most of the time I just go with the truth.
And here is what I get in response about 99% of the time when I tell someone that Mr. M is on the autism spectrum:
Followed by a look on the person's face that screams ... Oh crap, she just told me her kid is autistic and I have no freaking clue what to say next.
Listen, I get it. I have been in that situation more than once where someone says something to me within our conversation and because I just don't know what to say, I don't want to hurt their feelings, I don't want to say anything taboo or just look like a complete jerk, I just don't say anything at all.
This doesn't just happen with strangers that I meet in the park, but it also happens with my close friends and family. It seems like people just don't want to say the wrong thing, so they just don't say anything at all. But, when most people you know gloss over the fact that you have a child who has has special needs, it starts to feel pretty lonely.
So if you are ever in the situation where someone has just told you their child is on the autism spectrum or you're wondering what in the world you can say to your friend, co-worker, cousin, sister etc. here are some perfect things to say (and I can guarantee they won't want to karate chop you in the throat!)
1) I don't know that much about autism. Would you be willing to share with me what autism is like for your family?
I love to talk about autism. I love to share who we are and what we are about. I love to share our journey and how far Mr. M has come. Also by leaving this statement open, you aren't making any assumptions that Mr. M has super mathematical skills or is a music savant because he is on the spectrum. You are simply trying to get to know him better.
2) Tell me something that you have honestly noticed about my son and complement him on the skill or trait. You noticed that Mr. M has beautiful brown eyes, or that Mr. M does a great job being kind to his sister, or that Mr. M really rocks those monkey bars.
If you personally know us and haven't seen us in a while, I love to hear what you have seen Mr. M improved upon. You have the benefit of seeing Mr. M every once in a while, and why I am all hands on deck all the time, sometimes I forget what progress has been made and it is nice to know what you have noticed.
"Wow he is talking so much, or he is doing such a great job playing with all the kids" this allows me to step back and see, that we really are making slow, steady, and more importantly noticeable progress.
3) Complement him and or me on his behavior when he is acting correctly. I often feel like I am part of a walking circus. So, when you notice that Mr. M used, his manners, or was acting appropriately compliment him.
It is so nice to hear, your little boy is so polite when your life revolves around behavior management.
4) Oh, and how are things going? Yup, it is as simple as that.
It is short and sweet and leaves it open.
5) If you know a person close to you that is on the autism spectrum and you have a success story, by all means, tell me all about it.
Your co-workers son who is on the spectrum just graduated from high school and is going to college in the fall, or your best friends daughter just made the travel soccer team. I love to hear about other people on the autism spectrum and their successes.
6) Oh, do you know of - insert amazing resource here - for kids who are on the spectrum by all means, tell me all about it. VT is full of amazing resources for kids on the autism spectrum and while we know about most of them, we definitely don't know them all.
However, a word of caution, do not under any circumstances start to mention any wacky cures you have heard of, Jenny McCarthy, or the vaccine debate.
7) I read that about that on your blog (just kidding, well sort of).
I am writing this blog for a fair amount of reasons, but one is to connect. If you read about it, then it fair game to talk to me about it.
8) You are doing a great job.
Sometimes, it is just good to hear from others that you are rocking this parent thing.
9) Anything, really. I would much rather hear someone stumble through an awkward response, then say nothing at all.
Saying nothing at all, makes Mr. M's disability feel invisible. So if you are ever wondering if you should or shouldn't say something, always go with saying something!
So there you go, nine different ways that you talk to a someone be it a stranger, a close friend, or a family member about their child's disability without making them want to karate chop you in the throat.
This picture doesn't have anything to do with this topic, but I just love that huge smile!
I hope you enjoyed my list, do you have any suggestions that I missed?