The Centers for Disease Control estimates that about 1 in 54 children have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). No matter the age, race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic group, children from all backgrounds are affected by neurodiversity.
Given the statistic, that means you or someone you know has a neurodiverse child. It’s one of the most common disorders among children, yet there are still so many misconceptions and misunderstandings of what it means to be a neurodiverse child and a parent of someone with ASD.
Fortunately, parents always root for their children who are not neurotypical, and they want to advocate for them. Here are some things parents of neurodiverse children want you to know.
You Can’t Always See Autism
The general population assumes that children and even adults with autism have identifiable facial features or habits. However, this is not true. Every single person with autism is different. Some have mild cases, and others are more severe. These stereotypes make it difficult for parents and children with autism because people assume that their child has autism because of a feature or personality.
Sometimes, schools, caregivers, organizations and coaches may deny a diagnosis because they can’t see it. Again, there is no distinguishing feature that tells you a child has autism, so accept the diagnosis when parents say their child has autism.
Children with Autism Process Things Differently
Children on the Autism Spectrum often process things differently because their brains work differently. They’ll even process things that neurotypical people take for granted. Things like bright lights, crowds, and loud noises can often lead to a meltdown or extreme anxiety.
Unfortunately, when a child with autism has a meltdown in the middle of a public place, people will stop and stare or make rude comments. Instead, you should ask the parent if they need any assistance or avoid giving dirty looks and making any comments.
“Autistic” Isn’t the Only Thing Defining the Child
A child who has autism is first and foremost a child. Autism isn’t the only thing defining them. It’s simply something that happened to the child and is a diagnosis. The neurodiverse child is unique, has likes and dislikes and loves to play and laugh just like everyone else.
Begin seeing children with autism as a child before anything else. Don’t point out differences brought about by their autism diagnosis. Accept them for who they are and treat them as you would any other child.
The Neurodiverse Child Wants to Play with Yours
Children with autism often don’t feel comfortable leaving home because they think that other kids and adults will look at them and treat them differently or negatively. This leads to further misunderstanding of neurodiverse children.
If your child knows someone on the Autism Spectrum, encourage your child to play with them. Despite their diagnosis, they’re still a kid and want to play a board game, slide down a slide, and kick a ball. Children with autism enjoy playing with their peers, and they can significantly benefit from social interaction.
Children with Autism Work Hard
Society tends not to accommodate those with autism. That means that neurodiverse children have to work harder to fit into their surroundings, making it much more challenging for them to function almost anywhere they go. Autism creates a barrier with learning social skills, language and self-help skills, so when the public doesn’t accommodate those, the children have to work extremely hard.
Behind those hard-working children are also hard-working parents, teachers, therapists and caregivers who are doing what they can to help those children. While it may look like a child on the spectrum is acting like their neurotypical peers, they are actually working a lot harder to fit in and keep up.
Parents of Neurodiverse Children Know Their Child Best
Parents of children who are neurodiverse or neurotypical know their children best. All parents know exactly what their children like and dislike and their personality. Many parents of autistic children have spent a lot of time doing research and talking with doctors to learn more about their child’s condition.
They know how to prevent a meltdown. They know their child’s ticks. They know what their child needs at all times. Avoid giving advice and sharing every article you come across on Facebook about autism. Again, every child with autism is unique, and their parents know them best.
But They’re Not Autism Experts
Although parents of autistic children know their children best, they’re still not autism experts. If you want to learn more about autism or what it’s like to have autism, you should talk to someone on the Autism Spectrum.
Read blogs and articles written by someone with autism or have a conversation with someone who has autism. Parents of autistic children can tell you what it’s like living with someone neurodiverse, but they can’t fully explain what it’s like to have autism. The only people who can tell you what it’s like to have autism are those who have autism themselves. Break the stigma and have a conversation.
Children with Autism Need Acceptance — And So Do Parents
All in all, parents of neurodiverse children want you to know that they want to be accepted. Their child is just like any other child who wants to learn, play and fit in, but they need acceptance first. Learn more about autism and be an advocate for those with autism.