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Go Ahead and Ask: 10 Questions About Autism That Shouldn’t Scare You

Five years ago, when my son, Norrin was first diagnosed with autism, I had no idea what autism was and I had no choice but to take a crash course. I didn’t know anyone raising a child with autism, no one to ask questions – about anything. Those first few months were such a lonely time in my life. I didn’t know there were blogs or support groups (in person or on line). I think that’s why I have been so open about our experience. It’s allowed me to meet other parents who get it and allowed me to help parents of ‘typical’ kids understand. Talking about autism has alleviated some of the loneliness.

I am always open to questions. But I know autism is a sensitive topic and many people just don’t know the right questions to ask. Here are ten that can help start the conversation.

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  • Autism Awareness is everyday for Autism Parents 1 of 11
    Autism Awareness is everyday for Autism Parents
    So go ahead and ask. We will help you understand.
  • What is autism? 2 of 11
    What is autism?
    It's okay if you don't know what autism is. All you need to do is ask. Talking to an autism parent can be confusing - if a term doesn't sound familiar, don't be afraid to ask.
    Be sure to check out my list of 10 Common Autism Terms You Should Know
  • How was your child when they were diagnosed with autism? 3 of 11
    How was your child when they were diagnosed with autism?
    My son was diagnosed when he was 2.5 but everyone has a different diagnosis story.
  • Do you prefer child with autism or autistic child? 4 of 11
    Do you prefer child with autism or autistic child?
    Child with autism or autistic? While some parents (like me) alternate between the two - many parents and autistic adults have a preference. When talking to them, ask them which they'd prefer you to use.
  • How does your child best communicate? 5 of 11
    How does your child best communicate?
    Whether a child has language or not - I feel raising a child with autism is like playing a game of twenty questions and I'm playing alone. Sometimes my son can communicate exactly what he wants - other times, he communicates through his behavior. If you want to have a relationship with someone who has autism - you will need to understand how they communicate.
  • What activities does your child enjoy? 6 of 11
    What activities does your child  enjoy?
    I've learned that it's easier to communicate with autistic kids once you know what they like. (This does not mean asking anything along the lines of "So...is your kid like Rain Man?")
  • What school does your child go to? 7 of 11
    What school does your child go to?
    If you're unsure whether or not a child has autism, rather than flat out asking (which is sort of rude), try asking about school. Many children with autism go to specialized schools and/or are in special classrooms in public schools. If the parent is comfortable, they will tell you about their child.
    Remember, questions are welcome, but staring is not.
  • What therapy has made the most difference? 8 of 11
    What therapy has made the most difference?
    All kids with autism aren't the same and they each respond to therapies differently. Some have greater impact than others. This goes back to trying to understand how to best communicate with an autistic child. If you have an understanding of what has worked in the past, you will most likely be able to make a connection.
  • How are you doing? 9 of 11
    How are you doing?

    How are you? is a question often asked in passing. Stop and take the time to listen. Sometimes, an autism parent just needs to talk. Let them.
  • What can I do to help you? 10 of 11
    What can I do to help you?
    When it comes to raising a kid with autism - it really does take a village. Whether you offer an hour to babysit or a drive to an appointment - an offer to help can help take some of the pressure off a parent.
    Check out some tips on how to be friends with an autism mom
  • How can I explain autism to my kids? 11 of 11
    How can I explain autism to my kids?
    The other day a friend asked me how she could explain autism to her kids. She wasn't sure whether or not she say that all kids are different or if she should use the term autism. I told her what I prefer. Some parents may feel otherwise. If you're setting up a playdate between a typical kid and a kid with autism - you may want to talk to the parent beforehand and ask how they'd like you to explain it.
    A great book that explains autism to ‘typical' kids is, My Friend with Autism by Beverly Bishop.

So long as you are respectful, sincere and express genuine interest – you should feel comfortable asking these kind of questions.

Read more of Lisa’s writing at AutismWonderland.

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