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Whispers. Stares. Eye rolls.

We’ve all been there…

Aisle four of Target, Autistic child having a meltdown, strangers staring and making not-so-quiet assessments of your parenting or saying something about “kids in their day”.

You are just trying to help your child through their hard time, and it would be so much easier without the eyes of the world on you.

Or worse… A family Christmas party where your child is overstimulated, tired, and hungry because the only food being served that they’ll actually eat are cookies.

It’s freaking exhausting.

See, people often say that parenting an Autistic child is exhausting. But I know that the exhausting part is often just dealing with people judging your Autistic child (or you).

In fact, whenever I ask my audience their biggest struggle, this comes up again and again.

  • “How do I get others to understand my Autistic child?”
  • “How do I deal with strangers judging my parenting?”
  • “How do I handle the ableism constantly being thrown our way?”

So today I’m sharing 5 crucial steps to handle people judging your Autistic child.

Blonde and brunette women stand next to each other holding their hands up as if they are whispering to each other. Text reads: "5 Crucial Steps to Deal with People Judging Your Autistic Child"

5 Crucial Steps to Handle People Judging Your Autistic Child

Before I dive in, I want to let you know that I don’t hold a magic wand that will suddenly stop society from being so ableist and judgey.

I sure wish I did, though.

So these tips are about how you can handle people judging your Autistic child or your parenting—not to stop them from judging.

With that out of the way, let’s dive into step one!

Step One: Know Why This Bothers You

The very first thing you need to do in order to handle strangers—or family members—judging is to know exactly why it bothers you.

Really dig under the surface here.

What are you making their opinion mean about you or your child?

How does it impact your life or your child’s life if they believe something negative about you and your family?

Is there a part of you that believes in their judgment?

How do you feel when someone judges you or your child, and why do you feel that way?

Would that feeling change if it were a different person judging you or your child so harshly?

Do you value the judgy person’s opinion? What makes their opinion important to you?

These aren’t always easy questions to answer, so I encourage you to spend some time journaling on this to really discover why their judgment bothers you.

(Related: A simple daily journal routine to get you through hard days)

Step Two: Believe in Yourself & Your Child

Before you write this step off and just say “of course I believe in myself and my child”, I want you to take some time here.

Look back at the journaling you did in the last step.

Does any of it point to you struggling with your own judgment of your child or yourself?

Is there a part of you that wonders if you’re doing the wrong thing in your parenting?

Is there a part of you that wishes your child would be able to just get through Target without a meltdown?

If so, that part of you is the one we’re focused on here.

Because other people’s judgment will continue to sting as long as it reaches the small spaces of our brain that doubts ourselves and our children.

But changing those beliefs isn’t an easy task, especially not on your own.

So I want to share one of the simplest ways to get started.

Start gathering proof.

It seems too simple, but if you are a logical thinker like me, the brilliance is in the simplicity.

When you want to start believing something, you can simply start gathering proof for the new belief.

Are you nervous about your parenting strategies? Start gathering proof that you are doing the right thing.

  • Are you following the advice of Autistic adults?
  • Have you done research on parenting strategies?
  • Has your child’s anxiety decreased since you lowered demands?
  • Is your child happy and are their basic needs met?

All of that is proof that you’re doing exactly what you need to be doing as your child’s parent.

Step Three: Remember You’ll Be Judged Either Way

Human nature is to judge everything and everyone around us.

The ladies in the Target are judging you. Just like you are judging them.

Here are some judgments you might be making:

  • They are incredibly rude.
  • They don’t have any compassion.
  • They don’t care that my child is struggling.

And those may be completely fair judgments. But they’re judgments nonetheless.

So while you are judging them, they are judging you. And it’s a whole lot easier to accept that than trying to change it.

So let me ask you… When you are judged by the lady in Target or your mother-in-law or the moms at the playground…

What do you want to be judged for?

I know for me, I’d rather be judged for doing what I believe in.

I’d rather be judged for supporting my Autistic child the best way that I know how.

I’d rather my Autistic child be judged for being themselves unapologetically.

Wouldn’t you?

Step Four: Plan Ahead With Scripts

Now, just because we are confident in ourselves and our child and we know that people will judge anyway doesn’t mean that we are just going to ignore everyone all the time.

But spouting off a snotty remark won’t actually help the situation (even if it may make you smile to think about).

Beyond that, I don’t know about you, but I can never come up with something good to say on the fly.

I’m always that person who comes up with the perfect comeback hours after I’ve already gone home.

So instead, I plan ahead with scripts.

But before I can create a script, I need to know what I’m actually scripting for.

So before you go somewhere with your child where you think you may be judged, take a moment and jot down all the things that you are nervous might happen.

  • I’m nervous people will stare at us.
  • I’m nervous someone will say I’m a bad mom.
  • I’m nervous someone will yell at him.
  • I’m nervous someone will say she’s a brat.

Then for all of those situations you brainstormed, think: “what will I think, do, and say if that happens?”

First, what will you think?

Have a thought prepared that you will use to remind you that everything is okay.

This might be something like “my child is having a hard time, not giving me a hard time” or “I am doing the best thing for my child”.

Next, what will you do?

Know ahead of time what you will do for yourself or your child to help de-escalate the situation.

This is going to highly depend on what calms you and your child down, but it might be offering deep squeezes or it may be giving some space.

(Related: 5 Calming Strategies for Autism Meltdowns)

Finally, what will you say?

This is where the scripts come in!

And if you don’t already know me, scripts are kinda my favorite thing…

There are 3 steps to creating an effective script:

  • Decide Your Goal
  • Decide Your Commitment
  • Decide Your Script

You need to decide your goal first.

Is it to convince someone of something? Is it to get them to leave you alone? Is it to explain or teach about something?

Next decide your commitment level.

If this is your mother-in-law, you may have a higher commitment level than if you’re dealing with a stranger at the park.

Finally, you’re going to write your script (keeping your goal and commitment level in mind).

Let’s pretend my goal is to get someone to leave me alone, and my commitment level is high because it is a family member.

“Hey {name}, I love that you want to help, but I have a plan for {child’s name} that I’m following. It would be super helpful if you could give us some space and we’ll come back in when things are calm.”

Or if my goal is to educate and my commitment level is mid-range because it’s a child at the park who’s confused about how my child is playing, I might say something like:

“Hey buddy. {Child’s name} sometimes spins in circles and shouts when they’re excited just like other people might laugh or smile when they’re excited. What do you do when you’re excited?”

Step Five: Have an Outside Guide

Now, I know that you might be reaching the end of this post and thinking, “great, Kaylene, but I’m still so frustrated”.

And I hear you.

The fact is, even with all of these steps, it’s still ridiculously frustrating when people are constantly judging our Autistic child (or our parenting).

That’s why it’s crucial to have an outside guide, someone who can help you figure out why this bothers you.

Someone who can remind you to believe in yourself and your child, and that people will judge you anyway.

Someone who can guide you through creating your different advocacy scripts step by step.

And honestly, someone who can just listen to you when you are struggling with the ableism that’s in every corner of society.

If you want someone who can come alongside you on this journey to help you navigate parenting your Autistic child in a world that doesn’t understand them, click here to learn how you can work with me.

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