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“I love my child, but I hate autism”

I hear this phrase all the time, and every time it breaks my heart.

And I want to be clear… If you are a parent who’s said this, I don’t doubt that you love your child.

I don’t doubt that for one second.

But no matter how much you love your child, saying things like “I love my child, but I hate their autism” is actually incredibly harmful.

And here’s what I know to be true: you don’t want to do anything that could harm your child or the Autistic community.

So let’s walk through exactly why you can’t love your child & hate their autism, and what you can say instead.

Mom is holding her son who is facing the camera and hugging her. Text reads: "Dear Parents: You Can't Love Your Child & Hate Autism"

Psssst… Grab your free autism diagnosis poster pack here!

You Can’t Love Your Child & Hate Their Autism

Before I dive in, I want to share a quick story.

When I went through a divorce, my state required us to take a co-parenting class.

The first thing they taught in that class was, do not ever say anything negative about your ex-partner in front of your children.

And the reason for that was simple. Your child sees themselves as half you and half their other parent.

When you say that your ex is irresponsible or rude, your child hears that they are irresponsible or rude.

So if it’s true that children react so strongly when one of their parents is talked about negatively, isn’t it obvious that they’d have a similar reaction to their very neurology being put under attack?

Why Well-Meaning Parents Say They Love Their Child But Hate Autism

Here’s the thing: I totally understand why parents might use this phrase.

First there’s the fact that professionals push the narrative that you should always separate your child from their autism with person-first language.

So it’s only natural that parents would continue to separate their love for their child from loving their child’s neurology.

Then there’s the very real truth that sometimes autism (and parenting an Autistic child) can be really difficult to manage.

And many parents want to acknowledge that difficulty while making clear that they aren’t complaining about their child.

I believe that most well-meaning parents use this phrase because they truly believe it’s one of the most respectful ways to communicate what they’re struggling with.

Loving Your Child & Hating Their Autism Doesn’t Make Sense

But as much as I understand why parents use this phrase, the truth is that loving your child & hating their autism doesn’t make sense.

This is like saying “I love my son, but hate his male-ness” or “I love my child, but hate their whiteness”.

You really can’t—nor should you—separate who your child is from their neurology. It is an integral part of who they are.

But even if you don’t believe that autism is a part of your child’s identity (which, it is, but whatever)…

How much of your child’s personality is directly related to their Autistic brain?

If you waved a magic wand and removed the “autism” from your child, what would be left?

  • If they didn’t stim with joy when they were excited
  • If they didn’t script their favorite movie lines
  • If they didn’t recognize patterns others miss

If they didn’t do the things that they do day in and day out, would you even recognize them anymore?

What to Say Instead of “I Love My Child But Hate Their Autism”

By now you know that saying “I love my child, but hate their autism” doesn’t work, but what can parents say instead?

Well, the most obvious is: “I love my child”, no ifs, ands, or buts necessary.

But since I know that most of the time you’re trying to communicate a struggle, here are a few scripts you might try out:

  • “I love my child and sometimes it’s really hard when X”
  • “I absolutely love how my child’s brain works, but I get really frustrated about Y”
  • “My child is awesome just the way they are, but I really wish that I could better help them Z”

Because, again, the thing you’re frustrated with is definitely valid, but it’s also definitely not autism.

Now after reading this, you might still feel a bit (or, let’s be real, a lot) overwhelmed.

That’s why I’ve made it super simple for you to start.

Click here to download the free Autism Diagnosis poster pack.

Screenshot of three Autism Diagnosis Posters from Autistic Mama

It will walk you through some journal prompts to process your child’s diagnosis, a few simple shifts to neurodiversity thinking, and these four core functions of Autism-Positive parenting.

With this poster pack, you’ll be on your way to becoming the parent-advocate your child needs.

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