This post is, as the title says, about the top five things you should never say to an autistic person. In my 15 and a half years as a person living with autism, I have received my fair share of discrimination and hate. While anything derogatory that is said to me hurts, sometimes I’m hurt most by the things people say that they don’t mean to be rude. I will list the top five most inadvertently hurtful things that have been said to me as a person with autism and my well-intentioned, yet snarky, responses to them.
Well-Intended But Ignorant Comments #1-2
(Scene: NESSA is telling A FRIEND about her autism for the first time.)
Nessa: You are my really good friend, and I think there’s something you should know about me: I have autism.
Friend: Oh my gosh, I had no idea!
Nessa: Of course you had no idea, I just told you less than five seconds ago. People with autism don’t have blaring neon signs over their heads that say “I HAVE AUTISM” in big, bold, neon-green letters.
Friend: But you really don’t act like you have autism!
Nessa: And how does someone who has autism act?
Well-Intended But Ignorant Comment #3
(Scene: NESSA and A FRIEND are having a conversation about a class that they are in together.)
Friend: Oh my God, Johnny was being so annoying in class today. He was flapping his arms and running around and screaming like a madman. You also have autism, so why was Johnny acting the way he was acting?
Nessa: I’m not a little fairy inside of Johnny’s brain. How would I know what the motivations behind his actions were?
Well-Intended But Ignorant Comment #4
(Scene: NESSA is out shopping with her GRANDMOTHER and her grandmother’s friend, MRS. ROSENSTEIN. They pass a poster for Autism Speaks, an organization that raises money for “autism research,” yet not a single person on the spectrum is on the board.)
Grandmother: It’s so great that Autism Speaks is doing all of this outreach. What a great cause!
Mrs. Rosenstein: I heard they’re trying to find a vaccine to cure autism. Isn’t that wonderful, Nessa?
Nessa: (Breaking the fourth wall) I got nothing, guys. This is pretty much gay conversion therapy all over again. IT DOESN’T WORK LIKE THAT. Any attempt to make me act neurotypical is ultimately going to fail miserably.
Well-Intended But Ignorant Comment #5
(Scene: NESSA and A FRIEND are having a discussion about life.)
Friend: Oh my God, Nessa, life with autism must be so hard.
Nessa: Honey, I live in America, I have a house, both of my parents work full-time jobs, I’m not going hungry, I have access to clean water, and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to get mugged on my way home from school. I think I’m good.
Now, I’m sure what you’re thinking is something along the lines of: How DO I talk to a person with autism, or any person with special needs?
You can start by not treating them like 3-year-olds. Talk to a person with special needs like they’re a dignified human being with the same rights and basic needs and desires as every other person on this planet. It’s pretty easy, actually.