Autism parents get advice from every which way; parents, friends, family, strangers, and store clerks. While much of it is well-intentioned, it can become redundant and those spouting the “ideas on how to get your child to behave better” don’t have a clue. To preface this list, I would like to say that every person with Autism is unique, each Autism trait won’t apply to everyone. So, here’s to all you Autism parents who face criticism, we’re right there with you.
- Why doesn’t your child behave in public?
Because he’s human and he’s a child.
Like every point in this post, the person asking this hasn’t experienced Autism. Would you behave if you’d been dropped into a department store full of ear wrenching noise, obtrusively bright lights, and utterly rude people who stare at you? Sensory Processing issues people.
Not only that, but routine, normalcy is what people on the Spectrum desire, it’s where they thrive, it’s their lifeboat. Department stores, amusement parks, schools, farmers markets, and even libraries throw that all out the window.
- Don’t worry, my child didn’t talk until he was three. That’s nice. I don’t feel like waiting until my child is three to find out why he isn’t talking; why he doesn’t make eye contact, interact with other children, or play with toys, or talk. It’s not necessarily common for children to not speak until they’re three, so I will consider the typical developmental milestones when considering what might be different in our child.
- Why don’t you discipline your child, put her in time-out, or spank her?
Despite the controversy around spanking, let’s consider the Autistic child.
If a child has heightened sensory preceptors, spanking isn’t going to get the desired result. They love hitting, banging, pulling their hair, slamming their head with their fist, jumping intensely, this feels good to them, so no, spanking won’t work. They’d say, “Bring it on!” and it’s just not right.
As for time-out, consider the child who doesn’t sit for any amount of time. Torture. Many Autistic children are quite busy, always focused on something. Placing them in time-out with nothing to do will drive them up the wall. You won’t get your desired result.
Also consider the psychological development of the child. What do they understand? My son, Jeremiah, is just now beginning to understand situations that aren’t part of his every day life, so placing him in time-out will upset him beyond belief. (Yeah, we actually tried time-in twice for a couple minutes before his comprehension increased. Bad idea.) Time-out? Didn’t even attempt it, unless I sat on him, he wouldn’t have stayed where I placed him anyway.
- Why can’t your child sit still in church, class, on a gondola ride, anywhere that requires someone to be seating without a five-point harness?
So glad you mentioned the five point harness. This is why I love going on short road trips! Great idea, I should do this every day.
Sensory needs, nerves, anxiety, the need for activity. Hmm, with all three of these, plus more in play, how do you think we should get him to sit still in a room full of people? Sure, it can be done, Jeremiah is now sitting fairly well during Circle Time in his preschool class, but this is his THIRD YEAR, and the teachers have worked diligently to get to this point. He still sits in his special red chair, not on the floor with the other kids…some day.
We could work with Jeremiah to sit in church, I mean a few weeks ago we just about had a celebration (okay, we did) because he was sitting in a chair amongst the rest of the kids, waiting for snack in his Sunday School class. No, I’m not kidding. So, we could work into having him sit in church, it would be in very minute increments, like seconds at first and as we walked through those double doors, he would scream and cry, and fall on the floor. Yep, huge scene. All eyes on us, lots of questions, and unless I want Jeremiah to wear a sign that says, “Autism in Training,” I don’t feel like carrying the criticism, or judging those who are judging me.
I mean for goodness sake, we’ve (mostly my awesome husband Justin) taken him into stores on a regular basis since he was an infant. Still, some days while he sits in the front of the cart, he is banging his head on us or chewing his shirt like it’s beef jerky. So, sitting still somewhere? I don’t think so.
- You should feed your child healthier foods. You should have your child eat a wider variety of foods, what about their health?
Do you think I don’t care about my child’s health? Do you think I feed him gold-fish crackers because they have an awesome nutritional value? Do you think I’m going to ignore all advice on how to have a healthy child and throw my hands in the air? No, I’m going to try every way I can to get my child to eat something. One day though, you’re going to realize I can’t MAKE him eat anything, and you can’t either. We try, we wait, and we try again. If it’s egg whites and gold-fish that make up a majority of his diet, we’ll resort to lots of prayer. Lots. Because it will be a miracle if Jeremiah comes out of childhood with a healthy dose of nutrition.
And side note, we had extensive blood work done on him a few months ago and guess what? He was in the green on everything except vitamin D3, and don’t ya know, those come in little gummies he loves.
To all of those who offer these comments and questions, I would like to tell them, “You do it.” Then I think logically, and realize that people with these mindsets will probably harm my child if given any amount of time alone with him.
Autism requires different parenting. And so we do different.
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