Whenever I explain that have Aspergers to someone, they look at me with surprise. “Really? But you seem so normal,” most people remark. All I can do is smile awkwardly and mumble something that thanks them for the compliment. However, that “compliment” really feels like a slap in the face. Anyone who did not watch me grow up missed the anguishing years of never fitting in, being bullied by friends, and not knowing how to do simple tasks. Just because I appear normal now does not mean that Aspergers did not affect my life and continues to daily.
Autism awareness has increased in recent years. Because of this, people are much more understanding and ask less unhelpful questions. However, misinformation and stereotypes still continue. Some of the comments that people say to me about my Aspergers or about the disorder in general are extremely rude, hurtful, and bewildering. This stems from lack of education, usually, and not ill intent.
Thus, I decided to make up a list of ten of the main things you should not say to someone with Aspergers. These are comments that I have heard and had to answer. Please know that you are not a bad person if you ever said any of these things. Like mentioned above, most of these comments come from misinformation or lack of knowledge. Some of these comments even come from good intentions but end up hurting your friend or family member with Aspergers.
Also important to remember is that these comments are unhelpful even when someone with Aspergers is not present. Support people, caregivers, medical professionals, family members, and anyone who is close to someone with Autism may be negatively impacted by these words. Even those who are not connected to this disorder by association will be misinformed by the comments below. Thus, please try not to use them in regards to Aspergers or Autism.
Anyway, here is the list of ten things not to say to someone with Aspergers:
- Wow, you must be really good with numbers/smart/talented/etc. Just like other people, those with Aspergers are unique. Many are good with numbers, but others, like me, might be better with arranging words and letters in a manner that is almost mathematical. Do not assume that one person with Aspergers is like another.
- Everything is not black and white. Why don’t you break the rules a little/change your way of doing this/etc? You are way too rigid and unflexible. I know that changing my behaviors and ways of thinking is difficult and stressful. Please do not pressure me. Sometimes you can me to change, but do not force me into something that I am not ready for yet.
- Stop taking everything so literally. I cannot understand your sarcasm. I am very sorry. However that is the way my brain works.
- Why can’t you just follow directions/understand this like everyone else? Do you think that I want to be confused? Really, I am trying so hard to understand, but my brain process information differently than your’s.
- Just join the group and stop being so shy. It isn’t that hard to talk to others. Maybe that helps some people, but it just fills me with more anxiety. When you cannot read or understand those around you, how are you supposed to just grin and make friends?
- You seem so normal. How can you have Aspergers? It took me years to learn to relate in this “normal” way. Still, each social interaction fills me with dread and bewilderment. Just because I look normal does not mean function with Aspergers is simple.
- He/she got help as a child. Now they can grow out of their Aspergers and be normal. It is not possible to “grow out” of Autism because it is a neurological disorder. Receiving help early in life helps, but that cannot fully cure it. Aspies learn to function as normally as possible with their disorder.
- All children have to learn social skills. Aspergers is not a disorder; parents just do not know how to teach those skills to their children. Yes, parents do need to instruct their children how to relate to others. However, Aspergers does not occur when parents neglect to do this. It is a real disorder.
- You just need to try harder. It is all in your head, and you can change it if you really want to. Well, technically, you are right; it is all in my head because Autism is a neurological disorder. Anyways, it is not something that I can snap out of or change. Just like someone cannot choose to end cancer, I cannot choose to end Aspergers.
- Oh, yes, my neighbor’s sister’s son has Aspergers. He is a nightmare to deal with, and his parents do nothing to deal with it. Talk about bad parenting. Please, do not start complaining about someone else with Autism in front of me. We can be hard to manage, but life is a struggle for us each moment. Instead of judging, try to understand how we see the world.