The common, not so common, issues

One of the problems I often encounter when discussion Autism with someone that does not know much about Autism is overcoming their need to relate.

Which sounds really odd, doesn’t it?

The Problem

Here’s the problem: for every sign of Autism that I explain, the response is often “but a lot of kids do that”.

And when that happens, you kind of have to go…  “yeah… a lot of kids do do that, but not like this and not with the combination of all of the other things my child does.”

Here’s a quick laundry list of Autism symptoms, off the top of my head, where “a lot of kids do that”:

  • meltdowns
  • not listening/ignoring
  • get aggressive
  • get bullied
  • be shy
  • picky eating
  • have trouble sleeping at night
  • speaking delayed
  • miss milestones
  • be repetitive
  • need routine
  • wander off/elope
  • refuse to look you in the eye
  • be brilliant

The list goes on and on… and when your child is having an issue with one of those things and you mention it to someone, often times the response is “yeah but a lot of kids do that.”


same but differentThis is why the DSM tends to combine signs, meaning that your child has to have several signs and meet several areas of criteria in order to qualify for an Autism diagnosis.

The truth is, they’re not wrong. A lot of kids do that!

Here’s the thing… most kids go through phases, most kids don’t do these things to the same extent or severity and most kids don’t do many of these things all at the same time… making it a fully quantifiable disability.

And that is what is so maddening when someone responds to me with “but a lot of kids do that”.

It’s a struggle to admit that they’re not wrong and yet they’re so far off base at the same time… how do you explain that without upsetting them? Especially those stubborn family members that are so certain they’ve “been there, done that” and that you’re just young and “finding out what it’s like”.

See, I can see you sneering right now because we all have those family members.

In these cases, it’s best to remember the 3 key points that make your experience different from theirs:

  1. Most kids go through phases. Autism is for life.
  2. Most kids do these things to varying degrees. Autism tends to be all or nothing.. to the extreme.
  3. Most kids do these things one or two at a time. Autism means that several or even all of these signs are present.

If you really want to throw it in their face, you can add a fourth point… that their children were just brats and yours has an actual disability. This often results in a discussion about how much medical experts know and don’t know vs now and then, how they just have to give everything a name these days and so on… so it may be best left out.

Chances are, if you’re like me, it will really bug you every time you hear “but a lot of kids do that” but you have to remember that they mean well. They’re either trying to relate what you’re saying to what they know or they’re just trying to show their support, in their own weird way. That they “understand” what you’re saying because they’ve seen it.

Then you can hand them the gluten free food and/or therapy bills and say “consider yourself lucky that not a lot of kids do that”.

About Stuart Duncan

My name is Stuart Duncan, creator of My oldest son (Cameron) has Autism while my younger son (Tyler) does not. I am a work from home web developer with a background in radio. I do my very best to stay educated and do what ever is necessary to ensure my children have the tools they need to thrive. I share my stories and experiences in an effort to further grow and strengthen the online Autism community and to promote Autism Understanding and Acceptance.

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4 Responses to The common, not so common, issues

  1. Angela F. October 18, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    I so get this – a relative once told me “if you test every child they will find something and want to provide services. In my day…blah blah blah” You are so right though – it’s the severity (you can not discipline autism out of a child), duration (life long) and the combination of areas of difficulty. I have been following your blog for several months now and really enjoy it.

  2. Stuart Duncan October 18, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

    Thank you Angela

  3. JC Mitchell October 18, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

    I also want to bring up 4 but you are correct it is not worth the effort. I hear also, “he will grow out of it.” I am sure he will develop and grow, but I am aware that it is for life, and you are right that they mean well and simply do not understand. Also, for us it is much more extreme if you spend significant time with him, but out in public everyone is enamored with his stiming and think its cute, and his obsession with letters, and they say he is advanced. So he will grow, but not out of “it” and that is fine. I don’t want their pity but a little more understanding would be appreciated. At least we have each other (that is our community).

  4. Kimberly October 18, 2011 at 11:22 pm #

    We have 3 kids, ages 2.5, 4.5, and 6. The middle child is the one who was diagnosed with Asperger’s this past spring which finally gave us some answers.

    One thing that I hate is that people do not believe there is anything wrong because he “looks so normal.” I have had issues in public while trying to deal with major melt-downs because people thought that I was trying to excuse away his behavior. I am sorry, but right then is not the time to try to teach me how to parent (usually their method is to just give in to the child’s wishes)and you WILL hear about it if you criticize me in front of my kids. I have been around autism as a caregiver for 2/3 of my life and do not need a perfect stranger undermining my knowledge in that area or undoing the progress that we have made with our son.

    Sorry for the mini-rant. Long day and this beautifully written article hit a chord with me. Thank you.

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