Never talk about your autistic child’s challenges behind them.

“I think my child’s intelligence is low.”
“Just thinking about my child brings tears of despair.”
“Why have I been given this misfortune?”
“My child has OCD and has repeated tantrums.
“My child keeps asking me the same questions over and over; it’s killing me.

I often hear these statements from parents of children with autism, especially in my office, where their child is sitting next to them. Parents don’t hesitate to talk about their child’s challenging behaviors in front of them and about what upsets them, even to their face, because they seem to think their child won’t listen and understand what they say.

Parents think their children are not interested in them because they don’t make eye contact or look at them. They don’t answer when parents call them, so parents assume they’re not listening to what parents are saying.  Parents think that because the children are not interested in people, even though they are in the same room, they do not understand what their parents say.

But in my experience, children with autism can surprisingly understand all of this. They can’t make eye contact but can visually see what you’re doing. They can’t respond, but they know everything you say.  It’s not that they can’t hear; it’s just that there’s too much noise. They may look like they’re staring off into space or sensory seeking, but they’re picking up on your mood swings and what you’re doing even in that situation.

Children with autism cannot just see or listen; the most reasonable understanding is that they do not know how to communicate and express their feelings, intention, and desire to their parents about what they see and listen to.  As a result, the parent blames the child on others in front of the child, who sees everything and hears everything. Some children who have outgrown their autism diagnosis talk very poignantly about how they were made to feel stupid when they remember their past about how they were treated like fools.  They also look at themselves and see their mom struggling with hopelessness. They even talk about how sad they used to feel.

Parents shouldn’t forget that their children can still see, hear, and understand everything, no matter how severe their child’s autism is. No matter how stupid your child looks, when you peel off the layers of autism, there is a very gifted, angelic child.

That’s why parents of children with autism should never talk about what’s wrong with them in front of their children. If you do, the child will get frustrated and cry inside. We don’t recognize it. Never openly express your child’s problems in front of your child.

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