14 things you should never say to an autistic person

This is going to be an ever-growing list. Whilst I wish I wasn’t given the ability/reason to, I’ll update this post with more things not to say to an autistic as/when more things are said to me.

Trigger warning: Some of these may be difficult to read.

1. “You aren’t autistic; you have autism. Don’t let autism win.”

Right, so…autism is my neurology. You can remove the black rubber band I always wear around my right wrist1 and still be able to say I’m Liz, but you cannot remove my neurology and say I’m still Liz, because you would be changing everything about me.

When I hear this, I want to flip a table.

If I “have” autism, I guess you have allisticness/neurotypicalness. I’m so sorry.

If anything, I shouldn’t let ignorance win.

2. “You’re lucky, because my child will never be able to have a blog.”

Not with that language s/he won’t.

Perhaps you should change your ableist language to something more encouraging, like, “Wow! I should start encouraging my son/daughter to be as creative as s/he pleases, so they can excel at it someday!”

…you know, like a parent of an allistic child would do, because the allistic child is a human being…like the autistic child.

If not, don’t be surprised if I tell you you don’t deserve your child, or that I hurt for your child. When the conversation spirals to this point, it’s likely due to me being worried about your child’s safety; autistics live in a world full of people who want us dead, wherein mothers who murder their autistic children are commended for their horrendous act.

Seriously, where is the love?

3. “When were you diagnosed?”

None of your freaking business, that’s when. I’ve played the stupid games (i.e. tests) and attended the ridiculous group therapy. I’d like to not speak of those horrible events. Do you know what it feels like to be asked, “Why can’t you just be normal?” and looked at/treated like you’re the Devil’s spawn—to be blamed for everything you’re always getting wrong because you’re so “abnormal” and told, “If you don’t start acting right, I’m gonna beat you until you’re black and blue, and you will look me in the eye. I’ve got all night.”

This is such a personal question. I understand if you’re genuinely curious, but many of us find this as rude as asking a stranger when they last had sex. It’s a really personal question. I’d rather discuss my abusive childhood, especially since this question is most often being asked for some sort of proof that a particular person is autistic.

It’s just rude and disrespectful; don’t do it—ever—unless you really know the person. I was diagnosed as a child, and it was later confirmed well into my adulthood; that’s all you’re getting.

4. “Can I see proof? Can you show me a copy of the papers?”

What, like there’s some sort of Autistic Certificate everyone has?

5. “Stop rocking/swaying.”

I am going to flip a table, fix it back to its original state, and then flip it again.

6. “I wish you wouldn’t think like that. You need to pray to God so he’ll take it away.”

Autism is my neurology. It is a neurological developmental disorder. It’s only seen as a disorder because society tends to put people into a box of what is deemed acceptable. I really don’t know how to make this any clearer.

Autism has so many pros, I feel as though autistics are God’s gift to the world.

7. “I’m sorry.”

Why?

No, really—someone please tell me why people apologise when I say I’m autistic. I don’t understand it. I’m really confused on this one. When I ask, they usually just shake their head and look down. “I’m just sorry,” they say again.

8. “It’s okay, babe. I know it’s not who you are. You’re much bigger than that.”

Needless to say, I quit text messaging him. Hopefully I need not repeat myself on what issues this quote contains.

9. “But you seem so normal.”

…what is normal, exactly?

10. “You don’t look autistic.”

What does autistic look like?

P.S. I also don’t look 25, and yet…

11. “Have you tried [insert treatment(s) here]?”

Nope, I’m anti-cure.

12. “You can’t be autistic because [insert reason here].”

You can’t be straight, because you always have a #WCW (Woman Crush Wednesday).

13. “You must be high-functioning.”

Why? Because I can bake cookies, post to Twitter, and bathe myself?

You don’t see everything. I don’t show people everything. Getting to know me is a privilege. You don’t have a right to my life.

Labels are ableist terms. An ignorant allistic person might say I’m low-functioning because

  • I become absorbed into my special interests and don’t consider the time;
  • I don’t drive.
  • I feel a fervent need to rock, sway or turn my body most of the time.
  • I can’t stand hand-holding, save with children.
  • I’m a really picky eater.
  • I cannot tolerate certain textures and will freak out if you make me.
  • I’ve walked from the front of the house, wherein family dinners were happening, to my room—without a word—because I was exhausted/drained/spent from all the sensory input…I went to sleep.2

14. How do you not notice these things?

I’m absentminded. I don’t process things as quickly as allistic people. I have a hard time fully taking in the surroundings of something on the first go, and even more so when I know I’m being watched.

All of the above.


I don’t have anything else to add right now, but…well…I’m assuming there will be more.

  1. It’s for stimming/sensory purposes; this might actually be a good post to write sometime. TL;DR: It is a stimming toy always available at my disposal, and the center part of my wrist being lightly touched makes me feel grounded—like I’m okay as I am, or I have a friend.
  2. Perhaps if my family was more understanding of autism and less ignorant about it all, I’d have been a little nicer and been like, “I’ve had all I can take today; I just need some sleep.” Or maybe there would even be, like, a strip of colored paper I could put on my door that expressed my need to recharge—that would be so great.

Sorry, but comments are closed on this post.

Comments on this post

Kya’s gravatar

It is so annoying that these type of questions and mentality even exist. /zzz

Hiro’s gravatar

What, like there’s some sort of Autistic Certificate everyone has?”

Oh my goddd seriously??? People ask this??? Agh.
But then again… Why am I shocked….

I get some of those kinds though, with brain injury. I’m so “~high functioning~” to them that they always want to minimize my struggles and severity because they can’t wrap their minds around the concept that someone can APPEAR “normal” and yet have a very very different neurology and functioning than they do. Thankfully, no one has asked for proof yet, but I’m always more than happy to show them my brain scans. LOL.

My violin teacher (whom I loved dearly, RIP) told me back in high school (while I was in midst of severe depression that debilitated me), that I just need to accept God, he’ll help me. Oh yeah okay.

Liz’s gravatar

Here and there, yes, people actually ask for the proof—to see my medical file(s).

Georgie’s gravatar

Even just reading some of these made me angry, especially #8. I also don’t mean to generalise but these are often said to people with any kind of disability or disorder, and the bottom line is that they are all insensitive things to say. I have tried to put myself in the shoes of autistic people since knowing you (and some of my other friends with autism), and I can understand why these things can be frustrating to hear.

I think it was quite eye opening for you to have written this post for others to read. It’s brutally honest and frank. Sometimes people just need to be told what’s okay and what isn’t. Thank you for sharing this. I really value your posts that are so honest about your experiences with autism. 🙂

Luana’s gravatar

With a post like this, you definitely didn’t let ignorance win. 🙂 That’s great!

We are all born ignorant, and innocently so, but when one refuses knowledge… Ugh!

I used to be very ignorant about autism and other things years ago, I also misunderstood autism for a mental illness (my dad worked in a mental clinic before retiring, and I heard a lot of talk about autism every time I went there for volunteer service) instead of a neurological condition.

But I was always open to learning, so when I got into talking autism with an autistic friend and the possibility (for me) to be on the spectrum, it was a very eye opening experience. I asked a lot of questions and it was a lovely exchange. From there, I learned which resources to read online about autism, because some are outdated.

Generally, I don’t condemn ignorance, as we were all ignorant at some point, but the *will* to want to stay ignorant and to use that as a means to show disrespect, aggressivity and lack of tact. That’s really awful and even cruel. Also shows a big lack of empathy, something humanity needs more, I feel.

You know, I love what you wrote about autistics being God’s gift to the world. I feel they are; that every person is, the unique way God created her/his/them.

Big hugs,

~ Luana

Lulu’s gravatar

All of these are pretty rough.

The “I’m sorry” one is more complicated.

– Some people use it when they don’t know what to say.
– Some people use it when they care about you and are trying to tell you.
– Some people use it and forget the rest of the statement. IE – “I’m sorry that there are situations that are hard for you because of the problems you face.”

The list goes on. I find myself filling in what wasn’t said after the “I’m sorry”.

Liz’s gravatar

Most people, in my experience, are usually sorry I’m autistic because of the stigma surrounding it. Nevertheless, I see “I’m sorry” as a platitude in these situations. Whatever reason it’s used for, it doesn’t make it right. Space doesn’t need to be filled when people don’t know what to say.