A couple months ago, I had a conversation with an acquaintance. We hadn’t known each other for very long, but we had common interests and enjoyed each other’s company.
She knew that my son had an autism diagnosis, and felt comfortable talking with me. She told me her son was just diagnosed as well.
Before I could think, I said, Oh man. I’m sorry to hear that.
As soon as the words passed my lips, I knew it was the wrong thing to say. She gave me an odd look, and I immediately started to backtrack.
This type of blunder is nothing new to me. I’ve never been good at politically correct language. But nevertheless, our conversation has weighed heavily on my mind.
What I said is true. I am sorry to hear that her son was diagnosed with autism. But not because autism is such a terrible condition to have…
I’m raising four children. And all of them have issues. Two of them recently caught Teenager, and may not make it through the week if their attitudes don’t clear up.
Autism is just a tough issue to navigate. And I know some of the feelings she might experience in the months to come.
So when I said, I’m sorry, this is what I really meant…
I’m sorry your child was diagnosed with autism…
I’m sorry that you will start researching your child’s condition, only to become more confused than you already are.
I’m sorry there are more questions than answers.
I’m sorry that you will feel the need to become a geneticist, neurologist, psychologist, gastroenterologist, and a lawyer all at once.
I’m sorry for the feelings of guilt and inadequacy you will experience.
I’m sorry your insurance won’t approve the treatment you’re seeking, and that you’ll have to fight tooth-and-nail to get the services your family needs.
I’m sorry you will feel alone sometimes, because you think nobody understands what you’re going through.
I’m sorry you will lie in bed some nights and wonder what more you could you could be doing.
I’m sorry that rude people will stare at your family when you go out to enjoy yourselves.
I’m sorry that autism awareness isn’t the same as autism acceptance.
I’m sorry that, at some point, you will find yourself trapped in a never-ending debate on vaccines. And if you use the word “cure,” you will pay the ultimate price by the Facebook Support Group Gods.
That’s what I meant when I said, I’m sorry. But it still wasn’t the right thing to say.
It’s not my job to dump all of that negative energy on mom who’s just starting her journey through the spectrum. It’s my job to smooth her path.
Now that I’ve had some time to reflect, I know what I’ll say the next time:
Thank you for sharing that with me!
How are you feeling about the diagnosis?
This will open so many doors for your little one. Let me know if you have any questions.
Here’s my number. Feel free to call or text me anytime.
Our area has a wonderful support network, full of parents ready to help each other. I’d love to introduce you to some of them.
We have parent meet-ups and family events all the time. I’ll get you on the mailing list.
I’m here for you, anytime you want to talk.
Welcome to our tribe.
Thanks to Purple Plumeria Photography, Chris, and Brooklyn for the featured photo!