What Do Moms Want You To Know?

Parents of children with autism deal with so much -- from fighting for their child’s rights to judgment from other parents. Here’s what they wish you knew about kids on the spectrum.

The many faces of autism

Do you know anyone with Autism Spectrum Disorder? An estimated 1.5 million Americans have autism, including roughly 1 in every 110 babies born. It impacts many people, and probably has touched your life.

But if you are among the parents whose children don't have autism, what should you know? More importantly, what do parents want you to know? We found out!


It's called "the spectrum" for a reason

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a term that covers a range of developmental disabilities. Cases vary widely, so knowing one child's case isn't knowing them all. "Some kids with autism are very affectionate while others shy away from hugs. Some talk a lot, some mainly repeat the same things, and others don't talk at all -- and everything in between... The variations are huge," says Nancy Price, Executive Editor of SheKnows. Price's son Quinn -- shown above -- now almost 10 years old, was diagnosed with autism at age 21 months.

>> When autism is family: What's it like living with a child with autism?


Skip the judgement

It's easy to make a snap judgment when you see a child acting out. But don't, because you really have no idea why or what it means. "When you see a child in McDonald's that throws an inconsolable fit, don't assume that the child is bad -- that the parents have done everything wrong. Because you don't know," says mom of two Amber Theinert.

>> Autism signs & symptoms, qualities & quirks


Don't express your doubts

Autism - experience, advice, awareness

Everyone is entitled to their opinions, of course. But that doesn't mean you should be sharing them, especially when it comes to a child's diagnosis. Commonly heard: "Are you sure he has autism? He doesn't look autistic to me."

"Unless you're one of the professionals who has evaluated my child, don't tell me my child doesn't have autism," says Price. "If you have your doubts, that's fine -- but keep them to yourself, or ask questions that can help you understand more."

>> Tips for talking to family about your child's autism diagnosis


Let's not discuss your theories

So much is unknown about autism, that no one really knows the whys and hows. And yes, that includes you (especially if you like to speculate). "Don't ask how my child got autism, and please don't offer your theories. The causes are generally considered to be unknown as yet, and is considered a very controversial and contentious topic," says Price. Instead, she suggests, ask questions like what were the first signs we noticed, or how they ended up getting a diagnosis.

>> Autism therapies: What educational and medical interventions are available?


Good education is for all

Your child goes to school. So do kids on the spectrum. And guess what? They all deserve that opportunity. "My son deserves the same opportunities for a good education as your child, even though you may think he gets too much attention from his teacher," says mom Cathy Hale, whose son is on the spectrum.

>> Early diagnosis of autism


Be sensitive with what you say

Having autism doesn't mean that kids can't hear. They can. And they feel a lot, too. So, watch what you say -- as you would with any child. "As the parent of a 7-year-old Aspergian, I wish that other parents would realize that he takes everything said very literally. He doesn't have the 'sarcasm meter' we all take for granted," says dad Geoff Eaton.

>> Taking your autistic child to a restaurant: Tips on dining out


They are trying

Look, just because they don't communicate as you do doesn't mean they aren't trying to fit in. It also doesn't mean that they don't understand what you say. "We may not be very good at social interactions, but we try. We don't want to offend or hurt anyone's feelings, but if you don't want to know the truth, please don't ask us," says Stephanie Mayberry, a mom of three kids with Aspergers Syndrome, who also has Aspergers herself.

>> Your child has autism. Now what?


It's not contagious

Parents notice when you sweep your children away... but you should know that your kids won't catch another kids' autism. "I wish that other parents knew on a deep level that Autism is not contagious, and that learning to accept and include children on the spectrum will not only benefit the child with the Autistic Spectrum Disorder, but the act of opening their hearts and accepting those who are different from them will also benefit their own child," says Elizabeth Pflaum, a mom with a 19-year-old son on the spectrum.

>> Kids with special needs: Dealing with teasing


No, it's not Rain Man

Rain Man was a movie. A good movie, no doubt -- but it isn't by any means the end-all, be-all definition of what autism looks like. "Realize that Rain Man is not a typical representation of autism," says Price. She suggests that if you want to get a better sense of what people on the autistic spectrum are like, check out some of the autism videos on YouTube -- those by parents and by some of the nonprofits out there. Also worth watching: Temple Grandin (although, again, just one variety of autism) and Autism: The Musical.

>> Special needs kids and well siblings


It's okay to share your experience

Have an autism connection? You should talk about it! "If you have a personal story of someone you know with autism -- like about friends, family, neighbors -- feel free to share." says Price. "It's nice to know that someone has more than an abstract concept of what autism is like."

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Comments on "10 Things you should know about autism"

Madam March 24, 2014 | 7:37 AM

This is about AUTISM and AUTISM AWARENESS, not a person. Don't feed into people vomiting their bile all over the thread. Attention s are everywhere, and they only do what they know to do. If you come across these folks and their children however, you know how to check their behavior. Now...What a great article. Thanks and keep it coming!

candy November 03, 2013 | 9:57 PM

All I have to say to Susan is be careful what you say. I mean come on, what if it was your child struggling like this? You are very inconsiderate. 1. Are you a psychologist? apparently not. 2. Judge not lest ye also be judged.3. You are not doubting, you are showing ignorance. 4. Autism is either hereditary OR environmental meaning it could have been passed on or it could be from chemicals that have came into contact with the child in some shape or form. 5. Education is the cure for stupidity. 6. You are not politically correct just politically ignorant. 7. Kids fail when ignorant people judge them. 8. Trust me, my child (and the other children YOU are judging) are way too GOOD to hang around your kids. 9. Maybe you got your education on autism from rain man? 10. You don't understand it until you are faced with it. This being said, I think that you are just a very judgMENTAL person who does not understand autism and because of this you blame the disorder trying to pass it off as the bad kid syndrome because it makes you feel better about being so dumb. Your tiny little brain refuses to accept that all kids can not be perfect like your kid/s seem to be. I feel sorry for your kids to have a mother who refuses to educate herself with things like this. I just hope and pray to God that your child is never diagnosed with autism or any other disorder because I feel you are in denial of this disorder now and would be even more in denial if it happened to your child making their life miserable. The disorder was not diagnosed years ago because it wasn't understood. I hope you never pursue a degree in the medical field.

Notabitch April 17, 2013 | 11:25 PM

You all are WAY too nice. I will put bluntly what everyone here is thinking. Susan, you are a -----. Plain and simple. Keep away from me, keep away from my kids, and for the love of God, shut your rotten pie hole. You have NO sense of decency, and you certainly aren't welcome here.

Meade February 22, 2013 | 10:04 AM

I have to agree with Susan to a degree. Autism is quickly and readily to be diagnosed to cover any type of atypical social behavior. They used to say 1 in 6,000 children had autism. Then they said 1 in 600. Now they want to say 1 in 6. That is absurd. Nowhere near that many. Some children are simply brats. I know that even with autism, my oldest sister could manipulate to get her way. She would pretend to not know certain things. All of a sudden people want to label any problem child as having autism. Its kind of disturbing in a way. Also this notion that somehow autistic people are "hidden genuises". That is completely untrue. They can be dumb as stumps or somewhat intelligent, depending. My sister is mildly retarded. It seems her autism is a componet of that.

LB February 21, 2013 | 3:39 PM

I normally try not to pass jusgement on people without knowing where they're coming from but my goodness Susan what an ill informed, hateful, ignorant person you appear to be. I don't have kids but if I ever have them with special needs or otherwise I sincerely hope they do not ever come in contact with the likes of you. Your lack of humanity, compassion and understanding is everything that is wrong with the world.

mom to PDD-NOS November 09, 2012 | 6:57 AM

Do you have kids Susan? If so, sorry that you procreated. I feel sorry for your family and your kids. your comments are ignorant, rash, and uncalled for. No one raising kids on the spectrum should EVER have to deal with people like you. Who ------ in your Wheaties anyway???? I hope you don't live in MD so I can keep my kids - autistic or not - away from you.

cheri September 26, 2012 | 9:04 AM

Really susan? You are ignorant and un-educated. Telling someone to keep thier autistic kids from you is wrong, it's not a disease you can catch or a bag you can just get rid of autism is a heart & mind matter. My son is autistic but yet you can never tell because he is sweet, caring, funny etc. Just because my child makes noises doesn't mean he isn't trying to communicate being autistic is like being trapped with in your self they can't communicate do you know what its like to be trapped in your mind and not be able to talk or act normal around everything in their life. They can't sense things or feel things the way you do. You need help and I hope you never have a child with autism you would be a unfit mother for such a special and amazing child

Jason Kelly August 20, 2012 | 8:54 PM

Susan - you're an idiot. I'd gladly love to see my 2 boys become autism free somehow. I'd gladly pass on the very minimal disabilities allowance that they receive. Thanks for your ridiculous comments.

Liz witt August 16, 2012 | 2:55 PM

Susan's kids will be the bad kids at school. The ones who do drugs and have young. The kids that drive drunk. But they won't be autisic.

Susan has issues August 16, 2012 | 2:52 PM

Susan, childhood is a journey. Just because your child is developing typically NOW...life continues, and so do the influences that will affect your child, i.e., bad kids, drugs and alcohol, etc... I wouldn't bank on the fact that your kid being quiet in 2nd grade will lead to a "normal" life..that boy you may have spawned might impregnate some girl. That girl you have might get pregnant at 15, or do drugs or kill someone in their car... If I were you, I'd watch my mouth. Karma. Life can suck in many ways...

Patty June 23, 2012 | 8:11 AM

AAh Susan- Now I remember that I will have to exercise my tolerance of ignoramous. I'm sure your Republican too. Tolerance goes both way and for every raw emotional Autistic kid, theres one cold hearted ----- in the room.

Jennifer April 11, 2012 | 7:36 PM

WOW - Susan is quite the piece of work...it's a good thing she does not have a child on the spectrum because it's obvious she would have a meltdown ..she's not strong enough....or kind enough or many things but I will stop before I cross over to rude and ignorant as she did. I'd rather have a child with some challenges than to have one turn out to be a cruel person as she has become.....her mother must be very proud. I love the response from Lois :)

Jennifer March 26, 2012 | 1:33 AM

Susan, I fear for your children. I truly hope they don't grow up to be as hateful and ignorant as you.

Lois March 04, 2012 | 6:18 PM

Wow Susan, bitter much? Do you feel better after your little tirade? "Keep your special needs child away from mine"? Don't worry, mine has an IQ of 140, he'll be far away and miles above your average spawn.

Susan Fine March 04, 2012 | 1:57 PM

1 It's called "the spectrum" for a reason Yeah, its so people can get more FUNDING for this overly broad diagnosis. Its like telling me I am in the "Blindness spectrum" because I wear glasses, totally foolish. 2 Skip the judgement I will, once your screaming child calms down. Don't bring your "fauxtistic" child to an expensive restaurant and feel its OK to let him act out. 3 Don't express your doubts Yes, because god forbid anyone dares say that it might be "all in their head" or its just normal shyness they will grow out of. Better to label your child for a lifetime, then listen to common sense. 4 Let's not discuss your theories Again, telling me to shut up and plugging your ears does not make the fact that what some call "autism" is not. Its over diagnosed. 5 Good education is for all Not if your screeching child is going to interrupt my child's class its not. Special schools, read up on them. 6 Be sensitive with what you say Yes, lets have yet another Politically correct thing we cant talk about, lol that makes it so much better. 7 They are trying Good, let them keep trying, stop coddling them and wrapping them in bubble wrap, let them learn that humming and making odd noises or throwing things is not communication. Cruel? No, its called preparing them for real world. 8 It's not contagious Great, now keep your special needs child away from mine. 9 No, it's not Rain Man Sure looks like it. Wonder why autism rates SKYROCKETED once that movie was released? 10 It's okay to share your experience I'll Pass.

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