(Inside: Dear Autism Moms… Please stop complaining about your autistic children… It’s harmful to your children and the entire autistic community. Everyone has bad days, but this post outlines why to stop complaining about your autistic children and what you can do instead!)
There’s a video circulating on Facebook with a mother in tears.
She tried to take her child to Sesame Street Live and was embarrassed that her 6-year-old autistic child was stimming while meeting Elmo and she saw all the “adorable babies” in line.
She cries in her car, on video for hundreds of thousands of people to see, because her son is autistic and that makes her life hard.
She cries that her son won’t be a doctor. She cries that even though her son is happy and safe, he isn’t the child she thought she’d have.
And she cries because if she dies before he does she doesn’t believe anyone will go to her child’s funeral.
Presumably, because no one would ever love her son enough to grieve when he dies.
This video went VIRAL. So many parents of autistic children have liked, commented on, and shared it…
“YES. THIS IS WHAT MY LIFE IS LIKE”.
And I get it. There’s a severe lack of resources for autistic children and their families. It’s scary to think about the future when your child may need lifetime care.
But I’m going to say something that may be a bit unpopular…
As an autistic person and a parent to an autistic child, I’m begging you.
Please stop complaining about your autistic children.
Please Stop Complaining About Your Autistic Children
Now, before you start throwing things at me, let me clarify.
I understand that autism is not always sunshine and rainbows.
I understand that parenting an autistic child (like any child) can be frustrating, exhausting, overwhelming, and downright scary at times.
I pinky promise I’ll explain what parents should do when feeling such big (and valid) feelings about autism and their child. Just hold tight.
And before anyone says “but you can’t possibly understand because you and your child are ‘high functioning’ which is totally different.”
I’ll ask that you kindly read this post about the harm in functioning labels.
The fact is that autistic advocates from many different ability levels agree… No one should publically complain about their autistic child.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to the meat of it…
Would You Talk About Your Other Children That Way?
This is the first step to know whether what you’re about to share is over the line.
Imagine for a moment that you always wanted a child to become a doctor.
I mean, the whole nine yards. Dreaming about them becoming valedictorian and getting into a great college…
Going to med school… Choosing a specialty… You dreamed it all before your child was even born…
And then your child was born, struggled through school, and they decided that they never wanted to go to college.
Would you publicly shame your child for not being who you thought they’d be?
Would you cry in your car about how your child’s future is terrible because it isn’t what you wanted?
Would you assume that no one besides you would ever care about your child?
I don’t think so. And if you did, the whole world wouldn’t feel sympathy, they’d tell you to stop being so mean and love your child for who they are.
Parents are often careful about what they share online about their children, but for whatever reason, that line of privacy goes out the window when their child is disabled.
Parents share intimate details about their disabled child’s meltdowns, bathroom struggles, medical histories, and more without hesitation.
They talk about how their disabled children are burdens on them and make their life so much harder.
But parents don’t share anything like that about their neurotypical or able-bodied children.
So for your first rule of thumb, don’t post anything publicly about your autistic child that you wouldn’t post about your neurotypical child.
Would Your Spouse Talk About You That Way?
Now the next layer… Would your spouse talk about you that way?
Think about it… If a couple went to a concert, and the wife got overwhelmed and overstimulated, and she had a panic attack…
Then the husband posted a video on Facebook talking about how EMBARASSING his wife was and how hard it made his life…
How no one would love her because she’s different… How frustrating it is that he had to “give up” on his wife and her future…
No one would be on his side.
Many would call him emotionally abusive, and rightfully so…
If we wouldn’t want our spouse talking about us in a certain way, we shouldn’t talk about our child that way. It’s just basic respect.
What If Your Child Reads This?
Can you imagine reading this out loud to your child?
“But my child doesn’t understand”
They might one day, no one knows your autistic child’s future.
And even if they won’t, you honestly think that because they possibly don’t understand what you’ve said that it makes it okay for you to say?
Being non-speaking or intellectually disabled (those are VERY different things, by the way) doesn’t negate that person’s basic right to privacy, dignity, and respect.
The World is Watching You
This is one point that I don’t think many parents consider, but the fact is that the world is watching you.
You may be someone’s only tie to the autism community.
They may have never known any autistic people before knowing your child.
If you’re complaining about your autistic children online for the world to see, that’s the impression that those people have on autism and autistic people in general.
When you say that you don’t think your child will have any friends ever, you’re telling the world that autism makes someone un-loveable.
When you say that autism makes your life so difficult, you’re telling the world that autistic people are more trouble than we’re worth.
When you say that autism ruined your marriage, you’re telling people to fear autistic people.
Do you need to paint autism as rainbows and sunshine? Absolutely not.
But don’t complain about how it’s so terrible to raise an autistic child.
What Should Parents Do When They Need to Vent?
Now, as promised, there are ways to vent without causing harm to your child and other autistic people.
I get it. Sometimes you’re struggling and you really just need to vent or you’re going to explode.
So what do you do if you can’t go vent to the whole internet world?
Here are some ideas:
- Vent to your spouse.
- Vent with your best friend.
- Call your mom and vent over the phone (unless your mom isn’t supportive of autism and your autistic child!)
- Vent in a closed, private Facebook group of other parents who understand.
- Take yourself out for a Starbucks coffee to clear your head.
- Write about your frustrations in a private journal.
- Schedule a session with a therapist.
- Text with another parent of autistic kids you’re friends with.
- Grab lunch with a friend and vent about life.
- Get a babysitter and plan a date night with your spouse.
With any of those suggestions, please make sure your child is out of earshot and that you’re talking to someone safe.
Bottom line, there are plenty of ways for you to talk through your big fears and feelings when you’re frustrated with autism or your autistic child.
Going live from your car while crying about how terrible autism is for you, is not the right way to do it…
So please, stop complaining about your autistic children.
If you agree with this and you want a safe space online where you can learn and grow as an autism advocate, click here to tell me a bit about your situation and join the Embracing Autism Facebook Group!
If you loved this post, you might also enjoy…
- We Need to Chat About Being an Autism Mom…
- 25 Awesome Things About Autism
- Neurodiversity Doesn’t Exclude Your Child… You do.
- 6 Steps on Every Parent of an Autistic Child’s Autism Journey
- How to De-Escalate Your Child’s Meltdown When You’re Triggered
AUTISTIC READERS: The comments section on this post has a lot of hate and ableism, and many comments that are hurtful and/or triggering. Read with caution.