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A few weeks ago Child 2 had a birthday party; in attendance were his best friend and his friend’s older brother, who has been diagnosed with ADHD and sensory issues. He had spent a good deal of time at the party off to the side, away from the other kids, doing his own thing.
Earlier today I was talking to my mom on the phone and we were talking about these kids. “What’s going on with the older one?” She asked. “I watched him for a while and I could tell there was something not right about him.”
I don’t remember my reaction, but I instantly felt defensive. She was saying she thought he might be autistic, which may be true although he has no diagnosis; but that doesn’t mean that he’s “not right.”
I thought about it for a while and decided to email her. I asked her to be mindful of her choice of language when talking about autism, particularly around my kids. Saying he’s “not right” because he has autistic tendencies is the same as saying “there’s something wrong with him” because he has autistic tendencies. This is not a message I want either of my kids to learn.
My child has autism, but there’s nothing wrong with him. This is how he is; who he is. I don’t want him growing up thinking that he’s defective because of the way his brain works. I think our generation has an opportunity to change the way the entire world thinks about autism; like I told my mom: “being autistic isn’t a negative thing, it’s just a different way of thinking.”
Choice of language when talking about these things is a lot more important than people realize and I think it’s my duty, as a parent of an autistic child, to educate people about this. After all, if I don’t, who will? But most importantly I don’t want my child to think that there’s something wrong with him. Because there isn’t.
jillsmo blogs at yeahgoodtimes.com and is the mother of 2 boys: Child 1 is 9 and has autism; Child 2 is 6 and does not.