What NOT to Say When Someone Says They’re Autistic

What NOT to Say When Someone Says Theyre Autistic

Autism a developmental disorder that affects a person’s communication and social interaction skills. Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that the symptoms and severity can vary widely among individuals. If you know someone who has recently disclosed that they are autistic, it’s important to know what to say when someone says they're autistic. However, it’s also crucial to avoid certain comments or questions that may come across as insensitive or dismissive.

In this article, we’ll discuss what not to say when someone says they’re autistic.

Introduction: Supporting Autistic Individuals With Disclosure

When someone tells you that they are autistic, it’s important to understand that this disclosure may have taken a lot of courage and vulnerability. By sharing this information, the person is entrusting you with a part of their identity. It’s important to be respectful and supportive, rather than making assumptions or imposing your own beliefs onto them.

The Harm of Insensitive Comments

Unfortunately, many people are not aware of the harm that insensitive comments or questions can cause. When someone says something that comes across as dismissive or invalidating, it can make the autistic person feel misunderstood and unsupported. It’s crucial to recognize that being autistic is not a choice or a character flaw - it’s simply a part of who the person is.

Learn more about how to communicate with autistic people.

What Not to Say When Someone Says They’re Autistic

  1. “You don’t look autistic.”
  2. “But you’re so high-functioning!”
  3. “Have you tried not being autistic?”
  4. “I know someone who is ‘cured’ of autism.”
  5. “Everyone’s a little bit autistic.”
  6. “But you’re so smart!”

"You don't look autistic."

This comment can be particularly harmful because it implies that there is a certain way that an autistic person is “supposed” to look. In reality, there is no one specific appearance that is associated with autism. Additionally, it’s important to recognize that many autistic individuals may have learned to mask or camouflage their symptoms in order to fit in with social norms. This doesn’t mean that they are not genuinely struggling with communication or sensory issues.

"But you're so high-functioning!"

While this comment may seem like a compliment, it can actually be quite invalidating. Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that individuals may have varying levels of functioning in different areas. Additionally, high-functioning autism is not an official diagnosis - it’s a colloquial term that is often used to describe individuals who have average or above-average intelligence. However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t experience significant challenges in other areas, such as social communication or sensory processing.

"Have you tried not being autistic?"

This comment is particularly insensitive because it implies that autism is something that can be “cured” or fixed. In reality, autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the way the brain processes information. While some individuals may be able to develop coping strategies or receive support to manage their symptoms, they cannot simply “stop being autistic.” This comment can be hurtful and dismissive of the individual’s struggles.

"I know someone who is 'cured' of autism."

This comment is similar to the previous one, in that it implies that autism is a negative trait that should be eradicated. In reality, autism is simply a different way of experiencing the world. It’s important to recognize that many autistic individuals have unique strengths and perspectives that can be valuable to society. Additionally, there is no known cure for autism - so this comment is not only insensitive, but also factually incorrect.

"But you're so smart!"

While this comment may seem like a compliment, it can be dismissive of the challenges that autistic individuals may face. Intelligence is not the only factor that determines a person’s experience with autism. Autistic individuals may struggle with social communication, sensory processing, or executive functioning - even if they are highly intelligent. Additionally, this comment can be harmful because it implies that being smart can somehow “cancel out” the everyday challenges of being autistic.

Other Comments to Avoid

In addition to the examples listed above, here are some other comments or questions to avoid when someone says they’re autistic:

  • "Everyone is a little autistic."
  • “You’re just being difficult.”
  • “Can’t you just try harder?”
  • “You’re just looking for attention.”
  • “But you seem so normal.”
  • “I had no idea.”

These comments can be hurtful and dismissive of the individual’s experiences. It’s important to approach the conversation with empathy and understanding, rather than making assumptions or imposing your own beliefs onto them.

FAQs

Q: What should I say when someone tells me they’re autistic?

A: It’s important to be supportive and understanding. You can thank the person for sharing this information with you, and ask them how you can best support them. Let them lead the conversation and avoid making assumptions or judgments.

Q: Is it okay to ask questions about autism?

A: Yes, but make sure to approach the conversation with empathy and respect. Ask the person if they are comfortable discussing their experiences with autism, and be open to learning from their perspective.

Q: What if I accidentally say something insensitive?

A: It’s okay to make mistakes - we all do. If you realize that you’ve said something hurtful or dismissive, apologize and try to do better in the future. Listen to the person’s feedback and take their experiences seriously.

Q: What can I do to support autistic individuals?

A: There are many ways to support autistic individuals, depending on their individual needs and preferences. Some examples may include: offering sensory accommodations (such as quiet spaces, dim lighting, or sensory rooms), respecting communication differences, providing clear and consistent expectations, and advocating for their rights and needs.

Q: Is it possible to “cure” autism?

A: No, there is no known cure for autism. However, autistic individuals may benefit from various forms of support or therapy, such as occupational therapy or social skills training. It’s important to recognize that autism is simply a different way of experiencing the world, and that autistic individuals have unique strengths and perspectives.

Q: Why is it important to be aware of what not to say when someone says they’re autistic?

A: It’s important to be aware of what not to say when someone says they’re autistic because these comments can be hurtful and dismissive. Autistic individuals often face stigma and discrimination, and insensitive comments can further exacerbate these issues. By being mindful of our language and approach, we can create a more supportive and inclusive community for all individuals.

Conclusion

When someone says they’re autistic, it’s important to approach the conversation with empathy, respect, and understanding. Avoid making assumptions or judgments, and be mindful of the language that you use. By creating a supportive and inclusive environment, we can all work together to ensure that autistic individuals feel seen, heard, and valued. Remember, what not to say when someone says they’re autistic is just as important as what you do say.

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