Although the general public has become more aware of autism, there’s still a long way to go. The autistic community has commonly been told some phrases that we frankly don’t want to hear. These comments can be ignorant and hurtful, even with good intentions. Here are five things you shouldn’t say to someone on the autism spectrum.
1) “You can’t possibly be autistic”
Why would you flat out deny something I know I am? It’s not up to you to decide who is autistic! We often get this comment when others hear that we have a relationship, a job, a child or an educational qualification. They become skeptical and say, “but you’re doing so well. You can’t possibly be autistic!” Unusually, we also get this from those who are very familiar with autism. A parent might say, “You’re not autistic! You’re nothing like my autistic child who can’t do anything independently.” The truth is that everyone with autism is different and a diagnosis is not destiny. We consider it prejudiced to assume that autistic people are all lost causes who can’t possibly succeed in life. We can be capable of so much if you have an open mind.
2) “You must be really good at math”
Not this misconception again! We get it, you’ve heard too many negative things about autism and you want to compliment us instead. But again, we’re all different. People on the autism spectrum have just as much variety as those outside it. This includes our abilities, which don’t always match the media stereotype. Some of us are great at math and some of us are terrible. Some of us are natural with computers and some of us are technologically illiterate. Some of us are savants and some of us struggle intellectually. Just like you, there’s no single profile of our mental abilities. Putting some abilities on a pedestal can exclude autistic people who lack those abilities and make them feel inferior.
3) “You don’t look autistic. You seem so normal”
What does this even mean? How does someone look autistic? How does someone look normal? We’re physically no different from the rest of you. There’s no way for someone to look autistic at all. This comment is even worse if this is supposed to be a compliment. It suggests that seeming “autistic” is inferior and seeming “normal” is an ideal standard. We’re just different from you and we don’t want to be forced to be someone we’re not.
4) “What’s it like to be autistic?”
What a strange and generic question. I might as well ask you, “what’s it like to be not autistic?” We don’t even know where to begin to answer this. Being autistic is everything we know. It’s in every single experience we have from day to day. Also, there’s no unified autistic life experience. Every autistic person has their own unique life, with experiences different from the others. Are there any experiences that are universally shared between all of us? Sure. We all get asked these silly questions.
5) “Everyone’s on the autism spectrum”
No, they’re not. Trust me. Those who make this comment are suggesting that everyone understands and shares our struggles to some degree. Is this supposed to make us feel better? Well, it doesn’t work, because it’s a totally false suggestion. Others don’t know what it’s like to be autistic and never will. As funny as it is to say, only autistic people are autistic. This comment isn’t reassuring, it’s totally dismissive of our unique struggles and experiences.
Have you heard any of the comments mentioned in the article? Let us know in the comments below. Don’t forget to like and share this article if you think it will help others.
Brown, L. (2012, February 27). 15 Things You Should Never Say To An Autistic. AWN. https://awnnetwork.org/15-things-you-should-never-say-to-an-autistic/
Hirschberg, E. (2017, December 13). What To Say & What Not To Say To Someone With Autism. Research Autism. https://researchautism.org/what-to-say-what-not-to-say-to-someone-with-autism/
Stout, A. (2016, July 6). 11 Things Not to Say to Someone with Autism. The Autism Site. https://blog.theautismsite.greatergood.com/dont-say-autism/