Autism Action Month: How you can show your support

Published: Apr. 25, 2022 at 10:56 AM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - There are two words you should never say to a parent who has a child with autism: I’m sorry.

As part of Autism Action Month, we sat down with four moms who have children with autism and all utilize services from the Project HOPE Foundation.

Here is how they said you can show your support.

Don’t say ‘I’m sorry’

“My kids are amazing, so I don’t generally like when people look at me and say, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. That must be so hard,’” said mom Julie Martin. “It is [hard] at times, but, dude, they’re fun kids. They’re amazing kids, so you don’t have to feel bad for me.”

Cara Cobb, another mom, said she likes to introduce her son to people while they’re out, adding that he’s autistic. She said it’s to explain why he might act a little different than expected.

For example, he loves to help people. So if they’re at the grocery store, he might be tempted to get behind the register and help the cashier.

But Cobb said, more often than not, her introduction is met with condolences.

“That is the biggest blow to a parent because we’re not sorry,” Cobb said. “He is our perfect boy. You never should apologize to another parent if they introduce their child with a special need, specifically autism, because there is nothing wrong with our son.”

Instead of saying, “I’m sorry,” Cobb said she’d rather people interact with her son.

“It’s a wonderful feeling when someone actually takes the time to look our son in the eyes and introduce themselves,” she said. “‘Hi, it’s nice to meet you.’ It’s that simple.”

Clear up misconceptions

The CDC estimates one in 44 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with autism. Despite its prevalence, mom Laura Dyar said there are many common misconceptions.

One example, she said, is that people with autism are anti-social.

“That’s not necessarily the case. Every child with autism is very different. They all have different personalities like everyone else,” Dyar said. “My son is the happiest, the most loving, affectionate kid ... Our children want the same thing that everyone wants. That’s to be included and loved.”

Mom Becki Plumer said movies like “Rain Man” have been a double-edged sword. They’ve spread awareness of autism, but she said many people have come away from watching the films mistakenly thinking all people with autism act the same way.

“Autism is a spectrum disorder, spectrum meaning there are no individuals on that spectrum alike,” Becki said.

Project HOPE Foundation

For 25 years, the Project HOPE Foundation has offered specialized services to people with autism, from childhood through adulthood.

One of the services they offer is Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, which is a form of therapy that uses reinforcement, prompting and generalizing to replace problem behaviors.

Jack Plumer, Becki’s 15-year-old son, has been a part of Project HOPE since he was seven. Back then, he was hesitant to give someone a high five. Now he’s a tour guide at their Landrum campus.

“Basically, in my opinion, I can make anything look great,” Jack said.

Jack has this advice:

“Get to know someone better,” he said. “That way you can become better friends.”