By: Sam Palacio
Why Attributing “growth” to an Autistic is Harmful
“They will grow out of it.”
Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard this phrase! I heard this many times when my son was younger. As parents, while we appreciate your support of our journey, this particular phrase is not helpful to us or our child(ren). In fact, it can be quite harmful as it a reference towards their developmental progress or lack thereof. It also, quite frankly, comes across as sympathetic or dismissive - neither of which are helpful.
Autism is a developmental disorder that effects 1:44 in the United States and it is not a “curable” disorder. It is a spectrum disorder, and, as you’ve likely heard, impacts each individual differently. Each individual will “grow” and development at their own rate and could also have other comorbidities that influence their development. For some individuals with Autism, there may be regression in developmental areas and this particular phrase could be additionally discouraging to parents or children. If you are unsure about their journey, it’s always better to ask than presume.
Here are some thoughtful ways that you can approach a parent of a child with Autism:
It is an unfortunate misconception that an individual with autism cannot process emotions, attend to a conversation, or engage in healthy relationships when this is not the case for all. Compliment a child or adult with autism as you would a typically developing individual. This could look like telling them you like a drawing they worked hard on, you notice that they’ve waited very patiently in line, or their choice of vanilla ice cream is your favorite as well.
Lastly, lift up a parent who may need your support. Ask if you can babysit, offer them a break, educate yourself on the diagnosis, and ask how you can adapt an environment to best support their child. If the caregiver seems discouraged, reassure them that they are doing a great job. Celebrate the smalls wins with them.
About the Guest Author:
Hi, there! My friends call me, Sam. I’m a family photographer on The Crystal Coast of North Carolina that specializes in serving our neurodiverse and differently abled community. I’m a mom of two neurodivergent kiddos with 12 years under my belt navigating the journey with Autism. I have an MA and additional certifications in the field of ASD and behavioral studies and previously worked professionally in leadership roles building programming and support for ASD/IDD individuals. I’m an advocate in various volunteer roles and committees. In addition to this, I serve as Vice President of our local Seaside Arts Council, enjoy being a resource for our little coastal town, and love being outdoors with my family.