Dealing with People Who Judge or Criticize Your Child with ASD

 "Help! I have a mother-in-law who believes that all my boy (high functioning autistic) needs is a 'good wippin' ...please, give me a break spanking a special needs child will get him to snap out of it. What do you do with a person like this who has such a narrow perspective? She has no clue!"

Do you have a family member, friend, or coworker who talks about your youngster's problems as if he/she wasn't standing right there …who consistently criticizes your parenting skills …who questions your judgment …who glares at your youngster as if he/she is a freak …or who treats him/her like a “problem child” who simply needs to “learn how to behave”?

No doubt, you as the parent of a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) have probably found yourself on the receiving end some narrow-mindedness, intolerance, and downright discrimination among those who are (a) ignorant about the condition, and (b) quick to judge.

Managing the judgmental people in your life takes some special “people-skills” that you wouldn’t need if you didn’t have a special needs child.

Here are some tips for dealing with the critics:

1. Just as you know your youngster is bound to behave unacceptably in certain situations, accept that judgmental people are going to state their opinions whether you want to receive it or not. One idea is to change the environment by removing yourself from it. Avoid these people if you possibly can. If you can't, plan your escape just the way you might plan to get in and out of the shopping center quickly with your easily over-stimulated youngster. Have a reason prepared for leaving early, or hanging up quickly.

2. Looking at judgmental people as “specimens to be examined” rather than “idiots who should know better” can take away some of their power.
  • Are they so rigid in their thinking that they can't imagine anybody having a different opinion?
  • Are they so unhappy with their own lives that they want others to be unhappy, too?
  • Do they get a feeling of power from making inconsiderate comments?
  • Do they talk that way because they're insecure and want to build themselves up by tearing others down?
  • Is it possible that they're speaking out of caring and concern, but are just really bad at it?

As with your youngster, if you can figure out what the “critics” are getting out of their behavior, you can try to give them the same reward for behavior that is more acceptable.

3. Just as you can't expect your youngster to act his chronological age, you can't expect your mother-in-law (to use her as an example) to - all of a sudden - appreciate your parenting the way you would like. You may hope for a gradual improvement, and you may find ways to tolerate her attitude, but every time you expect her to act in ways she is fundamentally unable to, you set yourself up for disappointment. In the end, as with your child, you can only truly control yourself.

4. Keep the conversation away from negative comments about your child’s behavior by increasing positive comments about theirs. Flattery may get you everywhere. A kid on the autism spectrum benefits from hearing lots of enthusiastic, positive statements and observations, with negatives delivered as unemotionally as possible. Try that with the judgmental people in your life. If they turn the conversation toward your child’s shortcomings, turn it back with something nice about them. Use distraction as a tool to covert negativity into positivity.

5. If you know you're in for a stressful encounter, talk to a empathetic friend ahead of time to strengthen yourself emotionally. During the encounter, think only about what a great story this will make later on. Then, when you get home, share the outrageous behavior with your friend or a support group. If you've ever vented about your youngster's behavior, you'll know just what to do.

Resources for parents of children and teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism:


•    Anonymous said... All I can say is forgive her for her ignorance, she doesn't get it! You know ur child better than anyone, and know what it is they need. Pay NO attention to the rest who have no clue or idea! Cherish every little difference he has...a child with Special needs isn't given to just anyone! Take care of u, too!!

•    Anonymous said... Hear you well, I keep my mil at a distance as she deliberately winds him up which then the only solution is to leave, so now I just say why bother going there. I'm the one that then has to spend the next few hours calming him down, not her.

•    Anonymous said... I also feel your pain, and I found it so difficult until I remembered that I'm his parent and he is my child, my child who I love and want the best for and being swayed in any way by other people is not what is best for him or any child x

•    Anonymous said... I feel your pain! I have some family members who say similar things and aren't interested in being more educated about what it can mean to live with Asperger's and that harsh physical punishments DO NOT WORK. The hardest part is that my son feels their judgments and knows that they treat him differently because of it.

•    Anonymous said... I have a MIL that blames me for how he is. She said "I don't mean to insult you but it's your fault he is like this". My jaw hit the floor and of course my husband was not around at the time. She continued to go on and say I should have read to him more, disciplined him better..etc. I took a long breathe and just let it go. I did not argue with her because I feel she is ignorant and if she feels she has to blame someone let it be me. I can take it!

•    Anonymous said... My son is 8 and I would never dream of smackin him thats cruel. We now have cards that we show to people who huff and puff when hes having a meltdown

•    Anonymous said... Well, I wouldn't really suggest taking my advice! However, my sister in law told me I needed to whip my son's bottom once. I looked at her and told her I couldn't spank autism out of my son any more then I could slap the ignorance out of her. She hasn't said anything since lol. don't mess with momma bear!

•    Anonymous said... Your spouse tries to educate her. If she persists, then she doesn't have access to your child any longer. It's that simple.

•    Anonymous said…  Sounds like your mother in law needs her attitude adjusted by means of an ass whoopin' herself. Rudeness and ignorance are not disabilties or medical conditions.

•    Anonymous said… Back in our early days we also had people of the same opinion, the day we started giving a smack was the day he started hitting us when he was upset or angry, all it did was teach him that's what you do when your cross. It took us close on 2 years to get him to stop.

•    Anonymous said… Change your ignorant mother-in- law!!!!

•    Anonymous said… Detach and protect your child.

•    Anonymous said… Detach... like Marisol said! I have had similar comments from family and it is heartbreaking. Not only because you are going through such intense emotional ups and downs but also having little support and understanding. We are the only ones who know what is best for our kiddos. Stay strong!!!!

•    Anonymous said… Educate her. Ask her to educate herself. Have her come to a doctors appointment with you and your son so the doctor can inform her. I'm sure you just suggesting these things to her will help her perspective on the matter.

•    Anonymous said… Either educate her or keep your child away

•    Anonymous said… Eliminate them from your inner circle. Reduce contact.

•    Anonymous said… Just think how quickly autism/Aspergers would be cured if beatings worked!

•    Anonymous said… Get her to Google autism....then she can babysit for a few days.

•    Anonymous said… grandparents are gold aren't they? I educated my parents by giving them tons of stuff to read. they stopped offering advice after that.

•    Anonymous said… Great advice. Thank you.

•    Anonymous said… I do spank my Aspie son well not anymore he is 13 BUT i also can tell a meltdown from just him being disobedient dont getting all judgmental I don't tell anyone how to raise there kids and I dont beat my son. I have the typical teenage behavioral issues but hes a doll at school and he knows how to act. Also he does not have ODD or any disorder such as so I think in my situation is fine. If you dont think thats what your child needs that OK and you could also tell them it has nothing to do with him being a ASPIE and you just disagree with spankings

•    Anonymous said… I think this is a common issue... Its so easy to sit on the other side of the fence and judge our patenting...

•    Anonymous said… I would try to give her info on it and let.her know she can either support you and your husband or keep her mouth shut cause its not helping the situation and its putting more stress on both the parents and child. I hate it when ppl try and tell you how you need to raise your child

•    Anonymous said… I'd Ban her from my home! Which is exactly what Iv done with mine! My Philosophy has become "If you don't accept my ASD Son for who he is ur not welcome in my home!" My Priority is my sons happiness not a MIL or anyone else who can't accept him!

•    Anonymous said… I'd say take him I. Will pick him up in two weeks . Good luck . She won't say it again also get some info leaflets leave them about . Xx

•    Anonymous said… Ignore them! Simple enough...

•    Anonymous said… It's a little unconventional, but I had a grandmother say this a few times and I finally said, "Go ahead! He's all yours, I'll pick him up in a few days. " She actually got quiet and never said it again. I love her and I know she loves me and him, she's just uninformed (like so many). Her biggest issue wasn't so much his behavior, but she was worried about me and my stress level. She'll still make comments here and there, but she's 91 so I let a lot slide.

•    Anonymous said… Mine just left after 6 days...she doesn't think we should offer any negative consequences and enables all his negative I can relate to not feeling supportive! I agree thT this person can't be in your inner circle and you can't trust them to supervise the child. We have opted to have minimal contact...lots via phone or emails with pictures...but minimal with actual presence so as to avoid added stress of her opinions to both of us and our son! Key is focus less energy on people like it at your child and your husband!!! You guys staying on the same page as parents is where the energy needs to go!!

•    Anonymous said… My mother feels the same way. I told her to get lost.

•    Anonymous said… My whole family thinks this about my son.

•    Anonymous said… Offer to smack the stupid out of her.... I have a special needs child with autism/Aspergers & I will not "spank it" out of him.

•    Anonymous said… Phahah some people!! Shes be wiped off my list of people I call family or friend straight away!! She needs to learn the right way to deal with an aspie and if not jog on!!

•    Anonymous said… Punitive punishment does not work on Aspies. She needs to buy a clue. What worked for our son when he was young ..was to lock him "out" of his room, hide the Nintendo (the original), and when he got older password protect the computer and up to and including disconnecting the internet.

•    Anonymous said… So many believe this. Sadly, I once did but I read alot & it just isn't the right way at all.

•    Anonymous said… Some of my family too. No stress people don't underatand and always have opinions when they spectators

•    Anonymous said… Spanking doesn't work. It like dealing with a permanent diagnosis everyday/24/7. It does not go away. You can use routine, schedules, and behavior therapy, and behavior modification. Now, I am 46 years old and normal. A spanking worked for me. To each its own. Spanking doesn't work for Aspies. It may work as a last resort for my others but not special needs. I believe in discipline as a last option for my others kids. I will go to every extreme to avoid a physical discipline. I turned out great.

•    Anonymous said… Tell her to read about Asperges children b4 she starts telling you how to bring your child up .sort her behaviour out b4 she stats to critisize you what a bitch she knows nothing.

•    Anonymous said… There is nothing to be done. The MIL isn't the parent, and while mom and dad can be kind and communicative with grandma, parenting the child is for the mom and dad. If you have differing opinions on how to handle things, that is ok.

•    Anonymous said… Wip the MIL.

•    Anonymous said… You can't spank the Autism out of a child (or any other learning/neurological difference for that matter either).

•    Anonymous said… You have to cut family like this off they don't make a good support net work! And you wouldn't ever trust them to take care of your child.

•    Anonymous said… You tell her if she is going to continue that way of thinking, she's not welcome around your family. That's what I would do. I have zero tolerance for ignorance and violence.

•    Anonymous said… Your MIL's philosophy is so misguided. I would not allow my child with her unsupervised. Shame on her.

•    She's very ignorant! The best thing you could do is actually find a very good book on the subject. Read it yourself and highlight things on it then pass it onto her to read! Hitting doesn't solve anything!

•    Anonymous said… When my MIL did this, my response was: "I live with your son, who has no respect for you and won't even visit. How'd that work for you?" Didn't shut her up, but I felt better about it.

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