“My parents don’t accept that I am (or my child is) autistic. What should I do?”

This question ranks pretty high on the most frequently asked list. We just recently had a discussion about it on Autistic Not Weird’s Facebook page, and I think it’s about time I wrote a full article. (All links open in new windows, by the way.)

Most of us are used to people misunderstanding our autistic selves or relatives, but this is often from people we’re unlikely to see ever again. So what do you do when the lack of acceptance comes from within your own family?


Well, here’s my advice, for what it’s worth. This is written for the benefit of both autistic people themselves and their parents.

Before I begin though, I will stress that I almost certainly don’t know your family. As is often the case with these articles, pick and choose the advice that suits you and your situation.

This is Joe

Incidentally, this is Joe from BBC1’s upcoming drama “The A Word”. The drama is set to cover a family with a 5-year-old boy receiving an autism diagnosis, and Christopher Eccleston plays a grandfather character who particularly struggles to make sense of it. It starts on 22nd March at 9pm, I’ve just learned.

Why do some families refuse to accept autism?

So first of all, let’s cover a couple of reasons why autism is overlooked in some families.

1. Generational differences

I often say that in thirty years’ time, autism will be widely accepted beyond a scale that we can comprehend right now. I say this because children are now introduced to difference at a very early age. I worked in a wide variety of schools, and it was surprisingly rare that I came across a class without any children with noticeable additional needs. And in the classes where the children’s neurological differences had been explained appropriately, their classmates were almost universally accepting and wanted to look after them well. (An excellent example of this strategy succeeding can be found in this example from Seriously Not Boring.)


Compare that to my generation, who grew up in the 1990s: I met my first noticeably disabled child at the age of ten, and I found it an eye-opening experience. But since I’d gone all through my life without seeing another child like him (he had Down’s Syndrome, by the way), it made me wrongly assume that children with special needs were incredibly rare.

And as for the less visible needs? Well, my dyslexic friends were thought of as stupid. The kids with ADHD were thought of as badly behaved. Kids like me were seen as having a “slightly odd personality”. (And yes, that is a literal quote from a report written about me in 1995.)


But I’m only 30. Compare my experiences to generations even further back! I once had a heated discussion with an old-ish man from my chess club, who was shocked and appalled that my school’s nonverbal autistic students wouldn’t call me ‘Mr Bonnello’ or even ‘sir’.

Being naïve, I tried explaining learning difficulties to him- to no avail. And when I told him that forcing words from these students would be somewhere between impossible and damaging, his response was “well it never did us any harm”.


He was probably the inspiration for this picture I made.


That said, I’m unwilling to tar his whole generation with the same brush. One of my other clubmates, recently retired, is the grandfather of an autistic boy. He is perfectly clued up on what autism is and what it means, and a lack of exposure to autism in his youth has not prevented him one bit from understanding his grandson.


So why the difference between these two similar-aged men? I don’t know enough about their past to make any reliable comment, but I do wonder whether the grandfather had a wider variety of life experience as he grew up, or whether he is simply less resistant to the changing culture of our world.


Of course, it is tricky to educate people who are set in their ways (who are not always elderly, by the way!)- among those of any age who didn’t grow up with exposure to autism, there are those whose minds are open to change and others that aren’t.

But if it’s any comfort, once our kids grow up I genuinely believe we’ll no longer have this problem (or at the very least, not as much as we have it now).


2. Fear of stigma

As long as autism is considered A Bad Thing (which I personally object to, for some reason), there will always be the perception of stigma being attached to it- whether the stigma is real or imaginary.

And sadly, there are too many parents out there who refuse to get their child an autism diagnosis- or any of the support that would help their child- simply because they “don’t want the stigma of having a child with special needs”.


There are certain strong words I could use in response to this, but I’ll leave it at “stop being so bloody selfish, get off your backside and get your child the help they need. Because their needs are real with or without the diagnosis, and their support and provision must come before your ego.


Sorry, needed to get that out.

As with the previous point, I honestly believe this problem will fade with time. The more accepting the general population is of autism, the less it will be seen by some as a problem that needs concealing.

But for now, the “different, not less” education of the masses needs to continue.


3. Not actually knowing what autism is

Some people are still stuck in the days of Rain Man (which was the best thing ever to happen to autism awareness… about thirty years ago).

Some people have got their knowledge from more accurate source material, like the amazing The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, but based their entire understanding of autism on that one source. And that’s how stereotypes are created.


A few years after telling my friends I was autistic, I told them about my job in special education, and one of my friends answered with “really? Some people with autism can’t talk?!”

I would never call this friend ignorant, because of her keenness to learn (which, as I often say, is literally the opposite of ignorance!). But despite that keenness, I became very aware that because I was the only autistic person she knew, I was the source of her whole understanding of it.

So after that, I started talking more about autistic people who were different to me.

A little twist on that "once you've met one person with autism" quote that most of us know.

A little twist on that “once you’ve met one person with autism” quote that so many of us know and love.

So that’s another reason why some family members (or people in general) may not accept the autism in their family. Some don’t deny it through ignorance or shame, but simply because they’re uninformed about the huge variety of autistic people that are out there. For example, if their understanding of autism is ‘nonverbal with severe learning difficulties’, they may not recognise autism in a seven-year-old who can read novels but is intensely uncomfortable with routine change.


4. Seeing autism as an ‘excuse’

Yep, we all knew this point was coming. Let’s get it over with.

In my last article, I went to great effort to differentiate between autism being a valid reason and being used as an excuse. There are massively important differences. But unfortunately, to the untrained eye tantrums and meltdowns often look similar. (Just the same as ADHD-driven behaviour looks similar to ‘kids having no discipline’, to people who have no experience in telling the difference.)

Particularly when combined with the last point- when the autistic family member does not match up with the stereotypes- it’s only a hop, skip and a jump to “you’re just using it as an excuse.”

This is very damaging, by the way. Partly because they’re being hurtful to a family member with genuine unrecognised struggles, but also because they might actually convince them. And that could lead to an autistic person growing up to believe they’re defective, which is a dreadful thing (as many of my followers will tell you, having been through it themselves).


5. Seeing themselves in the autistic person

I’d like to thank Kirsty from the Facebook community for pointing this out in discussion, because it didn’t actually occur to me. But it’s absolutely true.

I’ve heard from a number of parents who tell a similar story: that they learned about their own autism/Asperger’s while their child was being diagnosed. For many of these parents, they learned something about themselves and felt more able to help their autistic son/daughter afterwards.

But of course, among those who see autism as A Bad Thing, the natural response is resistance. Be aware of this- because if they’re phobic of being autistic and see a lot of themselves in their child (for example), repeatedly telling them their child is autistic could be the equivalent of repeatedly telling them that they’re autistic.


6. ‘Positive’ reasons

A little extra note (and sorry for referencing this, Mum and Dad, but trust me).

When I first ‘came out’ to my parents about my Asperger’s, they didn’t believe me.

And why not? Because each of my personal quirks that I referred to as an Asperger’s trait had been interpreted through the years of ‘Chris being Chris’.


I came to realise something quite positive. The reason they were doubtful was because they had spent 25 years to that point knowing me as a person. They were reluctant to see my symptoms as being anything other than the Chris they knew and loved growing up. Despite the psychologist interventions and early speech therapy, they had always seen me in terms of my quirky personality and nothing else.

In all fairness, there were plenty of quirks to accept.

And in all fairness, I gave them plenty of personality quirks to accept.

Despite their doubts, they listened to me. And once I explained my reasoning- and the reasoning of my teacher colleagues who had worked it out for themselves (and also my sister, which was handy)- they came to accept that I did have Asperger’s. Since then, they’ve never been anything but supportive.

In fact, Mum recently said to me:

“Actually, given that you faced these challenges as a child- and you didn’t even know where they came from- that actually makes us even prouder of you.”

So it is possible for the doubt to come from positive intentions. And in my personal experience, it’s those people who are more likely to be open to listening and learning.


Oh, and I’ll quote a follower here who left this comment in a recent discussion. One of the ‘positive’ reasons for disbelieving is they think the autistic person is brilliant, and they don’t (yet) see how autism can be a non-negative thing.

I’ve had people tell me about my now 8 year old son, “there’s nothing wrong with him” to which I answer, “of course not, but he is Autistic and I expect you to respect that.” Seems to settle things nicely.



So what should I do if my family doesn’t believe me?

Well, the reason I wrote all of the above is because it’s the first thing that needs establishing. Why doesn’t the family member believe you?

Do you (or your child) not match the stereotypes? Are they afraid of the stigma? Are their perceptions of autism inaccurate? Are there other family matters at play which may cloud their judgement? More than one of these?

Once you have some idea of their reasons, it may help you work out where to go next.


I’m going to present two possible scenarios. Your relative may land somewhere between the two. Honestly, I’d recommend reading both scenarios with equally attention and taking the relevant advice from each.


You might be in a position to educate them.

Depending on how receptive your family is (and their reasons for doubting), you may end up being the means by which they learn about autism.

But there’s a way of doing it. And a way of not doing it.


I remember being very open about my Christian faith at university (trust me, I’m going somewhere with this). A big bunch of us were, and plenty of us were quite keen on discussing the Gospel. Myself included- surprisingly, given my social awkwardness. And in my time there, I saw how to do it and how not to do it.

Surprisingly, there are parallels with talking about autism to a ‘non-believer’.


If, for example, you go to a non-Christian and start talking loudly about the perspicuity of Calvinistic ideals or the specifics of the liturgy of the sacrament or how Jesus was a propitiation for man’s iniquities, don’t be surprised if they lose interest. (Seriously, even other Christians would.)

But talk gently about the basic principles, how they apply to you, and how they impact your perspective on life, and that’s where the learning happens. Even if they don’t agree with you, they often leave the conversation closer to understanding your perspective.


Likewise- don’t overload the relative with words, phrases and concepts they’ve never heard of. If you start going ASD, IEP, AAC, ABA, ODD, PDD-NOS, BIP/BMP all over the place, expect confusion rather than understanding. Because, even if they end up believing you, unfamiliar language will not help them understand the person behind the autism.

One of the very first things I ever learned in teaching was “learn where they are, then start where they’re at.” So that would be my advice for teaching anyone about autism: find out what they already know, and go from there.


An extra point- generally speaking, people trust the word of professional psychiatrists. And even if they don’t, sentences beginning with “the doctor says…” usually carry more weight than “I think…”

So, if you or your child has the backing of a qualified doctor, quote them. If there’s a printed report, offer them a glance.

Especially if their doctor looks like this. Then they have to believe it. Peter Capaldi's eyebrows demand it.

Especially if their doctor looks like this. Then they have to believe it. Peter Capaldi’s eyebrows demand it.


But they might be completely closed to discussion.

Sadly, it might be the case that your relative is closed to all conversation about the subject.

And if that’s the case, there’s little you can do about it. We can try being positive influences over people, but one thing we can never do is make other people’s choices for them.


So if they choose to not accept autism in their family, for whatever reason, how do you help them to understand you or your child?

My immediate advice is to keep talking about the struggles, but talk about them in non-autistic terms.

For example, maybe:

I’m struggling because the music’s too loud.

Is more likely to have a positive impact than:

I’m struggling to concentrate because my autism makes me sensitive to noise.


I know how ugly it sounds, cutting autism out of the sentence. Especially if it’s a major part of your (or your child’s) identity. But this strategy does get the other person closer to understanding the autistic family member and their needs. In certain cases it’s better to concentrate solely on helping them to understand the person, and leave the ‘autism battle’ for another day.

And again- whether or not you mention autism- quote the details from the professionals. If you have the backing of a psychiatrist, use it where you can.


Finally, I’m going to offer the “you’re not alone” advice again.

Seriously, right from starting Autistic Not Weird this was a surprisingly common question. And as isolating as autism often feels, I hope you’re able to see that there are plenty of other people out there who share your frustrations. Finding and talking to these people can be quite therapeutic, as well as a chance to learn how to deal with it. (If you’re not already in ANW’s Facebook community, you’ll find plenty of these people there.)


As frustrating as it is when you have to endure those who don’t accept autism, it’s important to focus on socialising with people who do accept it!


And to finish, the usual bullet-point list:

  • Establish why they don’t believe you/your child has autism.
  • If they’re comfortable with discussing the subject, pitch your conversation at their current understanding.
  • If you have the backing of a professional, quote the professional.
  • If they won’t talk about autism, talk about the struggles without mentioning the diagnosis.
  • You are not alone in not being believed. But the tide is turning in the right direction. I promise.


I hope this helps some of you.

Chris Bonnello / Captain Quirk


Are you tired of characters with special needs being tokenised and based on stereotypes, or being the victims rather than the heroes? This novel series may interest you!

Underdogs, a near-future dystopia series where the heroes are teenagers with special needs, is a character-driven war story which pitches twelve people against an army of millions, balancing intense action with a deeply developed neurodiverse cast.

Book one can be found here:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon CA | Amazon AU
Audible (audiobook version)
Book Depository
Review page on Goodreads

Chris Bonnello is a national and international autism speaker, available to lead talks and training sessions from the perspective of an autistic former teacher. For further information please click here (opens in new window).
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50 Responses

    • Sweet Tea

      I have an aunt who has 2 grandsons who have intellectual difficulties, are non verbal, and even as young adults, have to have caregivers. She was offended by the notion that my degree holding, articulate husband has ASD too. To her ASD= need for full time caregivers and permanent child-like state. It’s…difficult.

    • Maisie

      We had not seen my son’s grandfather and his wife for 5 years. He is 10 now; not diagnosed but surely autistic. I told them this. my son was not listening, not willing to be disciplined because he perceived it as being petty, and threw a major meltdown violent tantrum. I asked them to stop disciplining him the way they were doing it. They disowned him for being him and me for not parenting my child properly. I am not too bothered about this, because I couldn’t have done anything different. Their decision.

    • Anne

      Great article—thank you. I really needed to hear someone else express “stop being so bloody selfish, get off your backside and get your child the help they need. Because their needs are real with or without the diagnosis, and their support and provision must come before your ego.” Today
      If I say “this isn’t working for my loved one, don’t stop listening at the 3rd word!

    • Andy

      What a wonderful article. My very educated and intelligent parents scoffed when I told them my son was aspy.
      I let it go … I knew he was, I knew I wasn’t going to change their view.
      Then they looked after him for a week for me …. oh shit we get it now.
      He showed them without me having to push the discussion with them.
      He is my beautiful son with a special perspective of the world around him that I always got.
      A little like the author of this article whose parents just got him and never realized because they loved them for who they were.

  1. Qwerty

    I’m so happy with this article! My stepmother refuses to believe that I have Asperger’s, and often tells me that I should not be ‘exaggerating’ and ‘act natural’. She doesn’t believe that certain noises can bother me and others can’t.
    I believe this is because she had two sons who were affected quite differently than I am (and I’m a girl). Also, they had learning diffuculties like dyslexia and dyscalculia and I don’t. I hope I can make her understand I’m not faking my symptoms.

    • devotedbobcat

      I think my dad is in denial, because he just can’t accept that there is anything wrong with his daughter. My mum is in denial, because she feels so incredibly guilty for not noticing, for now knowing and not doing something.

      So nowdays I just try to spare them the whole thing. They have known me all my life, they tolerate me okay, we get on kind of well, when we have to… and we are all functioning adults on our own. If they need the belief that I’m “perfectly normal”, be it.

      I’m constantly aware how much it helps me every single day, that I know I’m aspie. But I also understand how important their firm belief is for them, for their well-being. So is it really important to convince them otherwise? Yes, it’s unpleasant and sometimes even hurts a bit, that they don’t accept a part of me, or at least the name of a part of me. But they do accept me as a person, more or less, including that part which they prefer to remain nameless.

      • Sharon

        I have a problem with the word “tolerate” used in reference to autism (or to people in general). I tolerate things, I try to accept people (not always easy, mind you). But I have never really felt accepted anywhere. Tolerated? Yes. No wonder I’m sick of the word. I tolerate headaches, stomachaches, being stuck in traffic- basically, anything I can’t control. Isn’t it about time the slogan “Acceptance, NOT
        Tolerance” was made public domain?
        Because either you accept someone for better or worse, or you don’t. I don’t care either way. Not anymore. If someone likes me enough to accept me, great. If not, oh well…live and let live. Accept it
        and move on. No loss.

  2. Aspien

    I was 26 when i was diagnosed with Aspergers, my parents had a tough time accepting it. My dad saw me as a strong and intellegent person, it was painful for him to see me break down. My mom was different she had a tough time accepting that she might have overlooked my problems that i might have suffered alone. My dad realised i hadn’t changed even if there were times where i broke down. The reason why i never realised i was “different” as a child was because everyone accepted that i was, and even though i was teased at school it didn’t touch me, because i was never kept out, one of the big reasons i had a good childhood was my parents not trying to change me. This was also the reason my mom never realised that i might have problems b/c as a child i didn’t. In my teens the different between me and everyone else began to shine through and actually cause trouble. My parents tried to help me, tried to teach me how i should behave, the did it because they wanted to help me but they didn’t know that they were denying the real me, and i started to suffer, i blamed my parents and everyone else for not understanding me, i tried to make them see, i became aggressive and startet to think about selfhurting and death. My mom watch as i broke down and she couldn’t take it, she rose up as a lioness protecting her cub. The school blamed my parents, my parents blamed the school because i blamed the school. For the next about 3 years noone other that my parents seemed to listen to me it made me so mad that i decided to find out what was wrong with me, it lasted 10 years, trying to be normal while trying to ease the suffering. It ended with me stopping to live, i was 25 years old i had wasted 10 years of my life, because noone listened to me, and everything around me just started to break down and then i stopped eating or get out of bed, after 2 weeks i contacted my parents i told them that i couldn’t take it anymore, that i needed help. And for the first time in my life i got the help i needed, and a year later i was told i wasn’t wrong, and that it was okay to be different, i finally found my explaination. My parents has already accepted that i have Aspergers, though they still believe i use it as an excuse, but to me it is different for so many years i seach for an explaination because noone seemed to understand me when i was young, i finally found that explaination but i don’t know how else to explain what happens to me other than using “I have Aspergers”. I told them it made me sad when they told me i was using it as an excuse, so they stopped saying it, so that is a step in the right direction.

  3. Jillian Condit

    Thankfully, I never really had to deal with family being hard on accepting my Aspergers…much. There were instances where my step father would say ‘don’t use your disability as a crutch’ and I understood the intention behind this phrase, but it irritated me to no end. My mother was infuriated every time he’d say that, and this was a woman who was studying for her Masters Degree in Special Education at the time. I think it also left enough of an impact on me where I doubt whether or not a struggle I have is related to my Aspergers or not. This is something I’m sorting out with therapy thankfully.

    I think what’s been slightly harder for me is trying to explain to my peers about my Aspergers. Some have been completely accepting of it, but others seem to struggle harder with it, even as much as I have written about it here – http://jc303.tumblr.com/post/133539354304/blog-30-autism

    I feel like I’ve completely laid everything out in the open as much as I could and tried as best as I could to make it more easy to understand, but I get the feeling that there’s this feeling of people just simply not wanting to understand, which in turn makes it more difficult for them to understand. It’s new, different, and unpredictable, and therefore, they don’t bother because ironically its overwhelming for them to wrap their head around.

    I know there’s not really much I can do and its up to the other person to truly decide if they want to put effort into understanding or not, but I can’t help but feel slightly frustrated at the lengths I have gone to, to explain to people how this works, and it’s somehow just not getting through. It sounds somewhat selfish to express this frustration but I have had to be my own advocate ever since my mother passed away back in 2011, and I’m finding out more and more how difficult it can be for people to understand, or the fact that some people just want to deny some ideas or facts about this.

  4. Sarah

    unfortunately it’s one of my adult children who has asked me not to speak about having aspergers. I’ve moved from being happy and relieved at having a late diagnosis to feeling like I’m not acceptable yet again. It’s causing me a lot of heartache.

    • Camellia

      Surely it is your right to talk about your condition as you see fit.

  5. Hayley Victoria Morris

    The Chris being Chris bit made me chuckle because that’s how my Nan reacted the first times I tried to tell her. It’s just “Hayley being Hayley” also she is on the spectrum with me according to the psychiatrist and I’m like “eighth” we live together. Thank you for the list, it cheered me up.

  6. Amanda

    Some great ones from my family:
    “She can’t be autistic; she can read and write!”
    “She goes on holiday and stays in hotels; how can she be autistic?”
    “I know two boys who are autistic, and she is the complete opposite of both of them. One shouts all the time, and the other one doesn’t talk at all.” (Which begs the question: how can I be opposite to both ends of a spectrum?)

    I was finally diagnosed with autism yesterday at the age of 34. I was lucky in that my mother works in special education, and recognised a lot of Asperger traits in me that she was taught to recognise in her students. Yet when she mentioned this to her sisters, they didn’t believe her and thought she was making it up and looking at things that weren’t there. When she told them I had in fact been diagnosed with autism, they were in disbelief.

    A message to my lovely aunties: You don’t live with me every day. You don’t see or understand the struggles I go through. When I’m with you, I am faking social interaction so hard because I’ve had to, in order not to be the black sheep of the family. Yet, I still am. If you would just talk to me more often rather than just commenting your disapproval every time I post something negative on Facebook, maybe you would understand me a bit better. Can’t you let me have my peace that I finally have an answer to why I am the way I am, instead of just seeing me as “the weird kid”? Read the information available to you about autism,instead of looking at your stereotypes. That’s all I ask.

    Pardon the rant, everyone. This is going to take some getting over…

    • Echo

      Although you wrote this a while ago I get a very strong feeling that my 7 year old child will have to go through the same treatment as you from my family. Ever since he was 2, talking about his difficulties, I have been dismissed, ridiculed, called incompetent. After 5 years of follow up and tests I have started to talk less and less to my family about what was going on. On their sides, still emitting judgments on every nuggets of information they would get. I find myself overwelmed with the content of their facebook post and news articles about how “its just anxiety” and all those other gems of conspiracy you can find on the internet.

      I find myself with a diagnosis on paper… unable To talk To them about it… To announce it to them, fearing the repercussions and judgment on my child more importantly, but as well on myself and my mind and my direct family unit ( siblings) mind health…

      I understand your ranting. Its absolutly justified .

  7. Helen Burgess

    You missed out one reason for not accepting your own child’s autism, which is “you’re only doing this to be unkind to me and to disrespect the DNA I gave you.”

    This is the one my mother uses to dismiss my autism, even though she has 6 grandchildren as well as a grown-up daughter on the spectrum.

    • banjorium

      I’m sorry you’re dealing with that. I can relate in that my father refuses to believe he passed autism down to my brother and I, and my mother simply “hates labels” even though I’ve found liberation and a whole mess of coping techniques in my official diagnosis.

      Disclaimer: I’m diagnosed ADHD but strongly suspect a comorbidity of high functioning autism. My brother shows many of the classic signs of autism in that he is incredibly invested in his hobbies (which I am sure he will make a fine career out of), has been known to my family as being “rigid”, a very intense person and all sorts of quirky personality traits that make him a really neat individual. But he has never been diagnosed and I’m sure he must feel confused and out of place thinking he is so different and not understanding why or what strengths come with that.

      I for one enjoy being something other than neurotypical. NT seems so boring and uninteresting 🙂

      Best of luck to you!

      • mplo

        From what I understand, ADHD and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder without the hyperactivity) are also common comoridities with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

  8. Rose

    I’m 15 and i’ve been suspecting that i have Aspergers for some time now but due to my mother claiming i was just a difficult child and using therapy as a tool to get me to stop. She always said stuff like “if you don’t stop biting yourself imma take you to the special doctor” and it terrified me as a child. Of course I ended up just learning to hide my struggles but it wasn’t until I asked her why she never did bring me to anyone and she said she didn’t want me to feel crazy and that it would ‘look bad’. When I thought this was just some kind of anxiety she said it was in my head. Now I’m still the same as i’ve always been and I don’t know if she’ll ever understand or bring me to somebody who isn’t going to tell me that I’m broken or sick. I’m still insecure and scared to tell anybody besides my best friend Taylor who has an anxiety disorder and also has parents who don’t think that’s a real thing. I hope one day i can be more confident about this. This website is truly helpful though. I wish the days are kind to you 🙂

  9. Justinlwright

    Hi I am one of you of many and we struggle as one but the feeling one feels lonely holding on to another person feels empty like you’re hugging a mannequin stuffed animal are simply air hard to give someone love when it is not equal feeling justin.wright7932@gmail.com

  10. Sara

    My mother had a difficult time accepting my Asperger’s diagnosis in 2002. I think she’s come around some, but I don’t discuss iw with her.

    I bet if I told my psychotic, gaslighting high school classmates, they would dismiss it as an excuse to be “weird”. They refused to be nice to me or accept me, even as I begged, pleaded, etc…

  11. Chris

    How do you know autism is a spectrum disorder? What evidence is there to prove this beyond all reasonable doubt?

    • mplo

      There are varying degrees of severity of Autism, ranging from being really severe to mild enough so that one who is afflicted with it is almost “normal”.

  12. sukhvinder

    I am Indian and come from a some what traditional Indian up bringing and trying to explain my sons difficulties to my family is very difficult. At first they almost pretend to listen and understand and then when he does something that they dont agree with, it fast turns into a battle of good and bad parenting. I could tell them until im blue in the face, why he did what he did and for them to see things from his perspective, but no! it becomes even more challenging when his behaviour effects my niece or nephew, he is then seen as a bully and someone who doesnt care about other children and their feelings. it is so frustrating because then he starts feeling like an outsider and with a negative label attach to him. As a result I have stopped talking to some of my family, if they cant accept him and his way of thinking then I have no room for them in my life. I will not make excuses for him as i believe he doesn’t require them. his an amazing child and if they cant see that, well its there loss!! I do believe the Indian community needs to be educated on such issues for children to grow up with a better understanding of them selves, thus encouraging self acceptance and self worth.

  13. Joe

    This is the first time I’ve read one of your articles. I just want to say thank you so much… And maybe vent a little. I’m a young(ish) father (29) of a beautiful four year-old boy that I am dedicated to fighting for, for the rest of my life. I just got into an argument with my mom about my son’s autism diagnosis, and reading your article helped me understand the possible reasons why it is difficult for her to accept what is, and also the definite wrong ways I go about trying to convince her (and others for the matter, it’s not ONLY my mom).

    To start off, our story is a bit of an attempt of trying something that most would consider “outside the box,” parenting. My wife, son (only 1 at the time), and I moved to Beijing three years ago. We had no thought in our heads of our son being on the spectrum at the time. Up until that age he was developing very typically. We received this fantastic, high-paying offer to teach in an international, English-speaking kindergarten. However, the best thing about the offer was that our son was going to be able to attend this kindergarten for free (children in China typically start their schooling at age 2 or 3). So we decided to go for it. We decided we wanted our son to see the world before settling down in the US again. And it was just as magical as it sounds for a while, until we noticed that our little boy wasn’t developing “typically” anymore, and he was actually falling way behind in any category that you can think of for that age. At first we thought it was just culture shock for him. But then it continued. And continued. So we brought him to an international children’s hospital, to an American doctor, and that’s when our world (briefly) fell apart. He was diagnosed after several visits. I, being a dad of a son, was in complete denial for days afterwards. My wife became deeply depressed. Then one day, out of nowhere and for no reason at all, I broke down. I cried like never before. Will I ever be able to actually hold a conversation with my son? Will I ever be able to take him to a ball game or play catch with him? Oh my God, my son has autism! Why God?! Why?….. This was the only time I’ve ever let myself go like this. But regardless of all these thoughts, this is when I realized that I finally, TRULY accepted my son. My wife, seeing my breakdown, finally realized she wasn’t alone. And that’s when we finally, TRULY became a team for our son. It suddenly turned from Hell to Heaven in the matter of a few hours. And it’s funny, because while all of this silly stuff was happening, our son was just going about his day, happily as usual, playing with his toy cars, running around, laughing, and enjoying life. We ended up staying in China for 2 more years that day. He has made a ton of progress and the doctors feel he is on the higher end of the spectrum. Today, I feel like a total moron for ever feeling like, and even acting like my son was being mentally tortured by this evil forced called autism. Today, we see it as more of his (and our) unique little gift that makes him great.

    Sorry for that long paragraph, but I feel it’s important to try to briefly explain the chaotic emotions we went through in the process of accepting the uniqueness of our boy. Life wasn’t easy anymore, and every bit of selfishness (positive and negative) we had we suddenly lost. We realized our son needs us to be stronger than ever, and it was (and still is) extremely exhausting for us to be Superman and Wonder Woman every single day and sometimes throughout the night as well. Haha, we have gone to bed crying tears of exhaustion several times because of how difficult the day was. Suddenly there was no such thing as doing ANYTHING for ourselves anymore. And now, the exhaustion is kind of like a high for us because every little gram of energy we use for our son is making it a whole lot more possible for our son to live a normal life when he grows up.

    Now for the frustrating part… We moved back home from China about 4 months ago. We figured that maybe before we travel the world with our son it would be smart to get him the American education he deserves first. We knew he still had a long way to go. Now, we’re living with my parents while we try to get half-way decent jobs. The problem is that since we’ve been back everybody has been doubting everything we’ve learned about our son. It’s almost as if we just totally made it up. Family members on both sides are continuously passing off messages and attitudes that we’re doing things all wrong. I don’t even want to begin to describe the comments and arguments. I’m sure you know. But I am just too tired these days to continue to try to convince people that my son has autism (like, seriously, are your freakin’ kidding me?!). So now conversations about the matter quickly turn into heated arguments that go nowhere.Both my wife and I are constantly hearing about the things that our son is lagging on and that they’re all completely our faults. It’s not hard to make you feel like a bad dad (or mom), you know? So now we’re just so tired, so stressed, and I’m almost at the point of cutting ties with my parents who I love so dearly and look up to so much. I’ve been in this state of sadness while I’m trying to contemplate what the best thing to do for my family is. Reading this article opened my eyes as to why my parents find it difficult to accept autism as an actual thing. But more-so, it REALLY opened my eyes as to the wrong way I’m fighting for my boy. I vowed to myself to protect my son with anything I have, including my own life. However, that’s made me belligerent. The stress and tiredness of the autism explanations has made it worse. I’m walking into any conversation about my son with my parents (or anybody for that matter) expecting the worst, And so when we talk about it, the conversation turns sour within seconds because all I want is for my parents (the people who would have done anything for my well-being) to listen to me, to understand me, and to just believe me. But you made me realize that I’m talking to them in the wrong way.

    It’s not often that I read something that really opens my eyes. I’m going to take your advice, and I hope a change of tone, mood, words, and attitude will help the situation. Even if it doesn’t, thank you so much for making me realize that their misunderstanding is partially, maybe even greatly my own fault.

    Again, thank you so much. I will check in again, next time without such a long response (sorry!).

    God bless,


    • CaptainQuirk

      Hi Joe, thanks so much for the compliments and thanks for sharing your story! I’m really glad this article has helped you. 🙂 Don’t be so quick to lay the blame upon yourself though- I know a parent’s natural state is feeling guilty about something, but just because you feel an attitude shift would be helpful doesn’t mean you were “wrong” in the past. 😉 Either way, I really hope the dynamic within your family changes to something more positive, and I hope that as your son grows up he can teach them some autism awareness too!
      Thanks again for sharing your story- you’re certainly not alone in having that kind of tale to tell (although most people won’t have the China bit 😉 ), and there’s a load of people out there who can empathise with you. Lots of them can be found in Autistic Not Weird’s Facebook community, if you haven’t seen it yet.
      All the best to you, your wife and son, and the wider family!

  14. Sharon

    Unfortunately over the course of my life
    I have come to learn that discrimination against the autistic doesn’t just come from the outside world but also the families of the child
    or children with autism. I’m not surprised when I hear stories about societal prejudice against the autistic, but to hear about it coming from families…that is truly heartbreaking. You love and accept your children no matter
    what. Because things happen in life that are put there to test us, to remind us to never take anything for granted. I don’t know the stories of others on the spectrum. I only know my own. But I do know this: a big part of how an autistic child learns to adjust to his or her environment depends on how the parents and family members on both sides handle it. For them to refuse to accept it, even deny it outright, really is a betrayal. That is the reason why I have limited contact with my father’s family, and why, when my grandmother died after a long battle with dementia, I did not attend her funeral. I love my father, but at times I feel very conflicted about him. Why would someone who is supposed to love and care about you treat you this way? Most of the time, I don’t respond to his snide comments. I clam up, and won’t speak to him. Life is too short for long, drawn out arguments. Bottom line is: whether you’re friend or family, I’ll accept you if you accept me. Otherwise, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  15. Brad

    For a while I’ve suspected that I have some form of high-funcitoning autism. My parents don’t believe me- or, at least, my stepdad- and probably think that I’m saying I have it for attention, because they believe that I have ADHD. The biggest problem I’ve faced is convincing them that my symptoms are being confused for ADHD. They’ve believed that my symptoms are closer to ADHD because I have some issues getting school work done, and I don’t read as often. I spend my time watching videos online and playing video games on my computer. I’ve tried to explain to them that my scratching isn’t just because of my eczema, but it is a stim- which is widely accepted as a stim by psychologists- and that if I didn’t have autism, it wouldn’t be relaxing for me. I talked to a psychologist but the information was biased since my stepdad was with me, and the test that I needed someone to fill out was filled out by a teacher that only sees me for an hour each day among a class of other students.

  16. Kim

    I have been diagnosed a few years ago. A few years before that I heard of autism through a presentation on Temple Grandon who can speak to cows. I think before that I wouldn’t of believed a doctor if they told me. I appreciate an article that is more understandable and isn’t just about children.

    I do have sensitivities; one being noise or music and I cannot stand people talking loudly or rock music. They might not realize it but my brain feels like it’s shutting down and then I lose the ability to focus. Another sensitivity is light; at night dark is best for sleeping in.

    As to whether others believe me, I don’t actually know. In job interviews I haven’t told people, which I don’t know if it’d make much of a difference. Until I figure out how to, I suppose I can leave it up for discussion. If there was an article posted later on the topic, that would be great as interviews seem to be a weakness.

    • CaptainQuirk

      Oh, I can empathise with job interviews being a weakness. It took me thirteen to get my first teaching job, simply because there was at least one candidate in each group who knew how to play the game better than I did.
      I’ll have think about writing an article on the subject. 🙂

  17. Rachie

    Thank you for this. I’ve been struggling so much with how to manage my families response to my child. He doesn’t have a formal diagnosis yet, he’s 3, he has a “probable Asd” on the paediatriciens letter as we await the year long wait list for assessment for formal diagnosis to begin. Myself and his dad have had a huge journey this year discovering how our awesome child sees the world. We know he’s autistic, we realised this year that we’ve discovered how like his dad he is and we have been on one huge learning curve individually as parents about ourselves too. It’s been very dark at times and it’s been light.
    The in laws have been amazing, they see my son for who he is, accept and acknowledge that we are seeking diagnosis for him so he gets the help he needs, particularly in education settings. They just get it.

    My mother’s response turned out to be my worst fear and nightmare. After her clearly being embarrassed by his way of playing the statement was made “why do you bother taking him to playcentrehe gets nothing from it”…along with many other gems, I can’t be bothered to repeat but her response was a mixture of believing he was just a naughty toddler I wasn’t able to control or annoying with his repetitions, to her being hurt by what she perceived as rejection cos he won’t sit on her lap or call her nana, to the belief im just an over anxious mother not coping cos of sleep deprivation and why the hell don’t I just feel ok with dosing him up with melatonin every night??

    I’ve completely reduced contact with her and my siblings, somehow I need them to A) accept we know our son b) accept our son and his worldview and needs c) broaden their own bloody horizons and knowledge d) ..
    Just maybe they could offer some support…..this article has helped me think of new ways to tackle this situation. Thanks.

    • CaptainQuirk

      Hi Rachie, thanks a lot for the comment. I’m sorry to hear that things with your mother haven’t been easy (although I’m glad that the rest of the family in general is supportive! I hope that, given enough time (and the actual diagnosis), you’ll be able to win her round in the end. Even if it takes a few years.
      All the best,

  18. EllieSammy

    I’ve been half diagnosed (several psychologists, therapists and doctors have pointed out likely ADHD and autism over the years, but I never went for a full diagnosis with a specialist due to the waiting times – two years where I live). I also work in finance and IT, so it hasn’t been too much of an issue with work. Although now that I am older (30s) I am struggling with many areas of life that I really need in order to live independantly – driving, paying bills, remembering to eat/wash/dress, managing my time, etc. So I am on that two year waiting list to get a proper diagnosis.

    I don’t have any friends, but my family definitely do not accept there is anything wrong with me. I was in and out of therapist/psychologist/doctor offices when I was a teen/early 20s and put on various medications for different things that did nothing. My family were well aware of this (my mother accompanied me to some of these when I was younger). They know about all the problems I’ve had with eating, sleeping, social communication, routine, noise/light sensitivity, dyspraxia, rape/abuse, having to leave multiple jobs, and they know my brain works a bit differently in that I can do certain things that most other people can’t (pattern recognition, photorealistic art, etc). They also know I’ve been suicidal for most of my life and only stay alive to support my siblings. But they think this is completely normal and dismiss the idea of me getting a proper diagnosis. They get angry and insult me if I struggle with any of the above. I’ve given my parents close to £30k over the last few years towards their holidays and mortgage, so I don’t think I’m a useless waste of space. I give my family most of the money I do have (I don’t have a home, holidays, hobbies, etc myself), but it’s never good enough and they see autism as just an excuse. I will be glad to finally know for certain what is wrong with me. But at the same time, I think my family will still see me as a dead weight.

  19. Raquel Lilly

    My son is almost 18
    “He knows everything there is about cars. Old, new, vintage, domestics and imports. He is so smart. How can he know all of that and be autistic? How can he be able to learn that but not other things as well? How is he ever going yo be able to live on his own or be a responsible adult with a job if he wont even rake the yard or even try to wash a pan. He has been sheltered and not taught the basics and has gotten away with so much his whole life that he doesn’t even try hard enough. He is just lazy. If he can learn that much about cars he can learn other things if he really wants to. I was just like him. And when I moved from home and realized what life was about I learned to do what had to be done. I didn’t have my mama to fall back on.”

    THAT was a quote. How do I get thru to my boyfriend that he is holding my son to unrealistic expectations. I quoted Albert Einstein saying is you judge a fish by how well it can climb a tree it will feel like a failure his whole life. He said but if that pond flooded then that fish has figured out how to get to the top after all. I said then we need to provide the water and flood the pond, cause until then he feels like a failure. I said this isn’t a person learning to crack an egg with his feet cause he has no arms. There is more to it. He said there are lots of situations when someone has cancer and is given 6 months to live and he overcomes it. He says its attitude and desire to do better. And my son has a bad attitude and no desire to achieve. I’ve said if all he ever hears is what he’s done wrong then why try yo do anything? But my boyfriend is stubborn. What do I do?

    • CaptainQuirk

      Hi Raquel, sorry to hear that your boyfriend has that attitude. If you like, I can share this question with Autistic Not Weird’s Facebook community? There may be several people there with similar experiences.
      Take care,

  20. Lisa

    I’m Autistic and proud of it. I’m also weird and proud of it. Don’t like the “Autistic not weird” of course we’re weird to NTs, that’s what makes us so awesome

  21. Naughty Autie

    I can’t recommend The A Word less. Max Vento, who plays Joe, is neurotypical. Not true representation.

  22. Lindsay

    In the last year, I finally came to terms with what I’ve long suspected. I am one of the female Aspies. It helped me finally make sense of myself. My father had long suspected and it was a relief when he voiced it. My mother could never have accepted it. When a favorite professor of mine voiced the possibility, Mom couldn’t accept it. She needed me to be “normal.” Well, I’m not NT, but I’m okay!

  23. Heidi Williams

    Thank you sooo much for this article.
    My 5 year old son is in the process of being assessed for adhd/possible autism.
    He is struggling in school-knows the answers/but cant comprehend the questions,has trouble socially with other students,has trouble following directions,mimes his way through class by observing others,can barely sit still in class,etc.

    His grandfather(my dad) has been quite difficult about it- saying things like”your too easy on him” “your gunna regret letting him git away with that behavior ” and “you just need to hit him more”(i dont punish my kid with physical violence).
    I see my sons stuggles,and it hurts me that my father can’t seem to comprehend that my son has a few additional challenges that we all need to help support.

    Its already an uphill battle with his school,attempting to get evaluated by medical professionals, being my sons advocate,etc.
    I really need his suppport in this as well.

    This article has been very helpful and i plan to use the info to try reach my father with it.
    Thank you again!-H

  24. Samuel

    I have autism and I feel like my dad hates me for it. It doesn’t help that he see’s everything not normal in the 60’s as “weird” (my dad is rather old). More than anything I want to start my own business. I can tell he wants to help me but at the same time I feel like if I am successful it will be in spite of him rather than because of him. Just reading this article has made me feel so much better. He still refuses to talk, but I feel like I understand him and myself better. Thank you so much. I now know that I need to be successful so that I can get the message out there about autism and become an advocate myself.

    • CaptainQuirk

      Thanks so much for letting me know- I’m really glad this helped. 🙂 And all the best for starting that new business!

  25. Lacus

    Thanks for writing this! This topic has been on my mind for a while. I have a cousin who’s now 10 years old and it saddens me that he’s not quite getting the support he needs. My sister, my mom, and I suspect that he may be autistic (restricted interests, mostly nonverbal or limited communication, does not register social cues that may come naturally to others…). For example, there was a time when my aunt asked me to help my cousin with his homework, but that was a struggle as the question required him to use his imagination and he just couldn’t, including struggling to write grammatically correct sentences. My aunt would raise her voice at her son, and I don’t think she sees that he has a genuine struggle going on, not that he’s lazy. It gets to the point where I basically gave my cousin the ideas for his homework which he wrote down, and I corrected every sentence. It made me wonder how it would be like for him as he continues to go to school and would be expected to do his homework independently.

    My aunt just thinks her son is quiet, even asking me when I started speaking more (I was more on the quiet side as a child), and she said she tells her son to talk more. I see that she does try to get help for her son in her own way, even though it’s not necessarily helpful (I’m not living with autism for example). And because no one at school seems to notice what’s happening, I don’t think she recognizes that more support could be given to him.

    I’m glad you mentioned generational differences as being a reason why some people may be in denial of autism. My aunt did not grow up with autism being accepted and talked about, so especially if her child is not diagnosed, I don’t think she would recognize it either. I’m noticing that as he gets older, I’m not quite sure how to communicate with him. He and his brother are bonding less and less overtime too, as his brother also doesn’t really know how to communicate with him. It’s hard to talk with the parents when they’re uninformed about autism and they don’t seem open to it either, which is partially because of the stigma like you mentioned.

    Thanks again. I’ll continue to do what I can when I see my cousin. I’m patient with him and I don’t take it personally if he doesn’t respond to me or doesn’t register social nuances, but it’s sad to see a family member struggle without getting the support they need.


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