What are the most common things you experienced with parents when they find out your daughter is autistic?
Emma: Our experience has been positive. Of course, there is always some educating that has to happen since most people don’t understand what autism is and talk about our children as if they aren’t in the room, as if they aren’t pulling in our every word—because they are.
We have to teach others that non-speaking doesn’t mean absent and we have to teach others how to include, but for the most part, other families have done all they can to embrace our child and make accommodations to include her. It’s very appreciated. As long as you (the parent of an autistic child) aren’t afraid to challenge the wrong perspective of others in love, inclusion is possible.
In your opinion, what is the one thing everyone could do to help lessen the stigma on autism?
Emma: Whatever you think our children are capable of, they're capable of much more. When you walk out of the room, my daughter will remember your sock color, every word you said, the warm or cold tone of your voice, your name, any details you mentioned, but because she didn’t say a word to you, you count it as absence when she is present in a way that neurotypical people could never be.
One big way to lessen the stigma would be to normalize things like stimming, to teach other kids that there is nothing wrong with shaking your hands when over or under-stimulated.