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Ten Things Never to Say to a Family with a Child with Autism

Updated on July 4, 2017
JT Walters profile image

JT Walters has a Master's of Science in Behavoralism from Florida State University. A former Campaign Manager in a Senate Race.

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10 Things to Never Say to a Child and their Parent with Autism

On most occasions I am a pretty reasonable person until someone picks on my son who is both medically fragile and Autistic. It has been worse lately as I have become the Rosa Parcs of Autism and refuse to have my son discriminated against. There are many times my son would gladly prefer metaphorically to sit at the back of the bus just because he is that kind. But I tell him he has the right to be treated kindly and with respect. And where he use to shrink back and not want me to stand up for his rights he now is very accustom to it.

Now days when we are verbally assaulted with bigotry and ignorance, usually by the evangelical Christian, my son just runs for cover and feels very sorry for the stupid person who has made such an ignorant bigoted comment to him which I have overheard. It seems like the evangelicals couldn’t do in the Muslims so now they have an axe to grinned with children with Autism. This is not true for all Christians. I am very close to people who are evangelical Christian who are not ignorant and bigoted about Autism probably because they have children with Autism in their family.

It is the use of religion to offend a disabled child and his Mother which is so upsetting. The worst part is I have taught my son to love everyone. People ask him if he wants to be Barack Obama and he smiles. He loves Barack. I keep reminding my son he is a Republican but he doesn’t care. I also remind him of the lack of policy for children with Autism by Barack and that Barack may not love him. My son believes in Barack Obama.

So I thought I would write this article about what not to say no matter how much you feel like it based on our experiences dealing with the bigoted ignorant public. I actually met an Aussie who was a Buddhist. He is wonderful to my son. His mind was blown away by the insults we have to endure each and everyday.

10 Things Never to Say to a Family with a Child With Autism

Number 10. I know what you are going through I have an autistic neighbor.

Wrong!!! If you know one autistic child that is it you know one child with Autism. No two children with Autism are a like

Number 9. He is retarded.

Wrong again!! Children with Autism have socialization and communication impairments and there is no normative IQ test for children with Autism. So until the Autism is resolved cognitive functioning can’t be determined. The word retarded is also exceptionally politically incorrect.

Number 8. You should stick him in an institution. You are a horrible parent for not institutionalizing him.

Wrong!!! The government is moving away from institutionalization as they will not pay for it. . That is a highly personal decision which a parent has to arrive at when they come to the conclusion they can no longer care for their child. This is a process and no one should judge another parent.

Number 7. It is your Karma/ It is Gift From God.

Wrong!!! There is a biochemical cause that has not been yet. It has absolutely nothing to do with Karma but in all probability genetics and harmful toxins in the environment.

Number 6. What is wrong with him?

Wrong thing to say again!! Although children with Autism have limited socialization and expressive communication the majority of them understand everything you are saying. If this flies out of your mouth the question you should be asking yourself is what is wrong with you?

Number 5 . My kids will catch what your son has.

Wrong thing to say!! And I am quick witted so it is so hard for me not to answer. “No, your children just need a new parent.”. Autism isn’t contagious. What is going on with the government dealing with Autism reminds me so much of how the government responded to the AIDS crisis in the 1980(s). They are ignoring it. They are not even providing public awareness so there is some compassion. It is a shame.

Number 4 . Autism only happens to single Moms.

Wrong!! The majority of marriages split up because of the stress and lack of social supports. I think the divorce rate is somewhere around 85% for parents of children with Autism. The Mom’s were not single to begin with but ended up that way because of a lack of social support. Father’s in general usually leave the child with the Mother as she has been the primary care giver for the child’s life. This is not a hard fast rule because for Mom I meet, I meet a single Dad in the exact same situation. Raising a child with a disability is incredibly hard work. Perhaps if the public could show some compassion it would be helpful. I would also like to add there are many adoptive parents with children with Autism as well as foster parents.

Number 3. You caused your child to have Autism.

Wrong!! This one makes me want to kill. No one can induce autism even in a lad in rats. The average ordinary person would not have the capabilities of causing Autism. I always want to say to this, “I can deal with Autism but it is the public’s ignorance that is killing me.”. I am also a scientist and a researcher. The majority of people I know who have children with Autism have at least a Master’s degree. Most of us didn’t even have coffee or caffeine during our pregnancy because we realize that caffeine crosses the placenta. This is the second most ignorant thing I have ever heard in my life.

Number 2 . Your child is choosing not to speak. He is what is known as a selective mute.

Wrong again!! Selective mutes have language and the choose not to speak. Since my son’s Autism was infantile he never fully developed language. Besides wouldn’t someone have to get him to answer, “I am choosing to be a selective mute.”. People are so insensitive in this country.

Number 1 . God has Damned Him and When he can Beg Jesus for Forgiveness he will be healed.

So Wrong!! First this is a completely ignorant and inappropriate thing to say on so many levels it is unbelievable. Honestly I wished I had a baseball bat because I would have beaten these people to death for saying this in the middle of Starbucks. My son was fine about it. He knows who he is and most of all he knows his Mom will go to war for him. When this was said he got in the car and locked himself in and just sat and rocked waiting for me to get them. Sadly, I am not a violent person. I don’t own a baseball bat. So I just took down the tag of the car and report those people as religious fanatics to the cops. What was amazing is that the guy sitting next to me through this entire thing had a child with special needs. He was so glad I spoke up. A lot of parents endure this hardship silently. Not me. And besides if Jesus could do anything he would have healed the bigoted hearts of evangelicals who say such horrible things.

What It Is Like From a Person With Autism

What We Do Know

I have a great deal of expertise in this field as I am a researcher in it. We have not been able to track down the cause of autism. There are many theories but nothing has been proven as of yet. In dealing with people who are functioning adults who have autism they like to think of it as a gift and they often show delusion thinking in idealizing their autism. One person even told me people with Autism were from another planet. As a scientist, researcher and parent of a child with autism, I had to explain that my child was born here on Earth and from my womb. It is not a gist from anyone. Although there is a clarity of thought which Autistic people seem to have. And while they believe genes play a factor in Autism it is not proven either. Most parents I meet with children with Autism are exceptionally educated and very bright. Most are white although there are some children who are African American and clearly autistic. While it is not contagious it is growing exponentially.

Autism is classified as a communication disorder not a mental health issue. As a matter of fact a lot of children diagnosed with ADHD who do not respond to medication are often discovered to have Autism. ADHD and Autism are very similar diseases and are often mistaken for each other.

And children with Autism can be taught. They respond very well to behavioral therapies perhaps because operant conditioning is not contingent up language. Behavior analysts can always find away around language to teach. Hollywood has not done any favors to the community of Autism and TempleGrandin is not their shaman. It is wonderful what TempleGrandin has done with her life but she is not the be all end all for Autism. First she represents a very small population of people with Autism and not everyone. I specialize in working with non-verbal or limited verbal children. TempleGrandin clearly does not fit into this category. Autism is too big a problem for one person or any one group of people to deal with individually.

But it has to start with public education. The parents of these children have a hard enough life without deal with the ignorance of the general public. And public awareness begins with the government stepping in and educating the public. I cancelled my cable after Claire Danes starred in that movie about TempleGrandin. We haven’t had TV since. I felt it was counter productive for my son to see negative stereo types of people with Autism and while we were doing research for interventions for none verbal children with Autism.

But it begins with public education. Families of children with Autism are just like any family. They are struggling to get by and loving each other each and everyday. A child with autism is a child first and should be respected and treated with humanity as all children should be. This is simply accomplished by assuming the child understands what you are saying and minding your words. Most Autistic children if you are open will eventually socialize with you. I have often wondered if the stigmatization has caused them to be socially impaired. Everyone could cure this issue by being humane and opening their hearts to an autistic person.

The treatment that I have I will work on to bring to market at no or low cost but the other things like society being educated and open to children with autism so they are more social has to begin with you.

People Throughout History Who Either Have or Were Suspected of Having Autism


I have some really awesome moments of humanity which people have shown both me and my son. I plan on writing about those in one of my up and coming hubs. Kindness that is shown to my son as well as understanding. There are just some really incredible people around us as well. These were only 10 things not to say. We have been showered with generosity and understanding lately by wonderful people from all around the world.


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    • JT Walters profile imageAUTHOR

      JT Walters 

      5 years ago from Florida

      Thank you Sunshine625!!! Christmas has come early for us!! It is the best gift you could have given us!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I scored 80% on the quiz and I have never met a child with Autism. I just answered using common sense. I also shared your hub so that others would not have "foot in mouth syndrome" Thank you for sharing your story.

    • JT Walters profile imageAUTHOR

      JT Walters 

      5 years ago from Florida

      Hi Ananceleste,

      Trust me it takes a great deal of energy not to react and answer people who say such things. Frankly, it continues. I am in Florida and e have very old people here who believe disabled children, especially children with autism should either be locked up n the attic (I have actually been told that ) or put in institutions. When my son hears them he just goes gets in the car and knows I will handle it. If he could speak he would say, "My Mom is going to get you.". But I always have to remember that all of our children are special and when very ignorant people say such things I try to think in that moment, that these are what I call,teachable moments. And I try to educate which sometimes I end up being cursed

      out and sometimes I get the other person to see the light. I looked at your article and it touched my heart.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I try to take the ignorant and make them into soldiers for our children. I have some very serious converts.


    • ananceleste profile image

      Anan Celeste 

      5 years ago from California

      I am sooooooooo angry!!! Jesus! You are a better person than I am, I would have gone satanic on them! I can't believe that people, any religion, any creed would DARE to say such things! Grrrrr! My son has Aspergers and my beloved niece has autism, I would pay to see someone say or ask such things. I am appalled and disgusted. Sorry. Forget those morons. Wow.

      I cant see myself without my son or my nice in my life. I taught my son to accept others and to love, no matter what. I even wrote a hub on what I have learned from him regarding his condition called; " the wisdom of my little one". People will learned how unique and special our kids are. In time, they will teach us to be better human beings. Great hub dear. Sharing. I bet the associations that look after children with Autism will hit the ceiling.

    • JT Walters profile imageAUTHOR

      JT Walters 

      5 years ago from Florida

      Brilliant observation ElleBee. The Autism community is very fortunate to have you working with this population.

      Children with Autism share individuality with their neuro typical peers.

      Thank you for our comment.


    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Very interesting article. I have worked with many children with autism, and I think what you said about "if you know one child with Autism, you know one child with Autism," is incredibly true. Of course there are certain characteristics of Autism spectrum disorders that the individuals will have in common, but these are also unique children with interests and personalities!

    • JT Walters profile imageAUTHOR

      JT Walters 

      5 years ago from Florida


      What you written is true and that is why I wrote an article on five things to say to a child with autism. Sometimes people don't know what to say and then sometimes they are just mean.

      All My Best,


    • profile image

      mours sshields 

      5 years ago from Elwood, Indiana

      Great article. Sometimes people don't mean any harm by what they say.

      However, people can be ignorant or insensitive. I know some about this because I have a teenage autistic son.

      Marcia Ours

    • JT Walters profile imageAUTHOR

      JT Walters 

      6 years ago from Florida


      I am so sorry you had to endure all of that but you have the ability as a member of a church to change all of that. You have unique insight into exactly what I am speaking about. Education within the churches is the key. And almost 100% of the time the really ignorant about disabilities seems to be the elderly in the USA who never grew up knowing someone with a disability let alone overcoming it.

      You have the power Grace.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.


    • JT Walters profile imageAUTHOR

      JT Walters 

      6 years ago from Florida

      As I mentioned in the article it is not all Christians that suffer from this delusion that only Jesus can heal my son. It is the older population who is not use to seeing disabled people out in the communities. It is incredibly hurtful when things like this are done in the name of Christianity.

      Churches do have the ability to have a massive impact on educating their congregation about Autism. God has not damned the Autistic population nor can they speak and beg Jesus for forgiveness to be healed. This is delusional thinking.

      I appreciate your response but I would really appreciate it if you could talk to your church about Autism or embrace Autism at your church and learn about it.

      You seem really nice to me. No kicking anything of yours. Thank you and thank you for your exceptionally kind true Christian words.


    • JT Walters profile imageAUTHOR

      JT Walters 

      6 years ago from Florida

      Hi Gypsy Willow,

      I worked with children who had autism before I had my son. I find children with autism to be incredible children if they are accepted and loved. Yes, I think negativity breeds negative feedback from other people but I believe that to be the case with all of us. Children with Autism are just more sensitive to negative feedback.

      Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing your experience to encourage others to get to know children with Autism in their communities and as always thanks for commenting.


    • tmbridgeland profile image


      6 years ago from Small Town, Illinois

      I am so sorry to hear that some of my fellow Christians have acted in such a way. The Christian church accepts all kinds of people, including the ignorant and unkind. We hope to have a positive impact on these people, and often we do. But, obviously, not enough, not fast enough, not good enough. Looking back on some of the stupid things I said and did as a young man, someone should have kicked my ass. A few decades on, I'll probably think similar things about what I am doing now. Best wishes and God bless your son.

    • graceomalley profile image


      6 years ago

      I faced a similar frustration with Christians with my mentally ill mother. Some thought mental illness either doesn't really exist, that it must be about sin and so repentence would solve it, that it could be 'healed' by prayer, that a nervous breakdown is really just a big temper tantrum (that one is my favorite, and comes from a lecture by Christian leader Bill Gothard.) As a Christian of many decades, I am complaining about a group i belong to you understand. I think the problem is a lack of depth in education within the church. Christians are not taught to embrace the dichotomies of life. I believe that God is good and that he loves me, and that some pretty awful things have happened to me. That is a basic dichotomy, the likes of which every human being grapples with when growing from childhood to adulthood. Christianity can offer great comfort in the dichotomies of life, or, it can deny them and cause even more pain & trouble. It is all in how Christianity is taught, and how it is practised.

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 

      6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      I have recently got to know a child with autism. After a year of interaction he has accepted me and chats and plays with me. Sometimes I wonder if it isn't the person who brings out the symptoms of autism who is at fault?


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