Professional Speak Translated For The New Autism Parent 

Picture this: you have some concerns about your child’s development. Perhaps he or she is not speaking much, not giving eye contact, ignoring or over familiar with others or has some behaviours that seem a little repetitive. You decide to seek some professional advice. 

You have now entered the world of ‘professional speak’ where all sorts of professionals will say thing to you that actually have a meaning you may never realise. 
For those just starting out on the autism journey here are some things you may hear a therapist or a doctor say about your child with autism and here is what they might really mean. 

  •  “Let’s see how he goes shall we.” 

What that really means is we reckon you are exaggerating a few things and all will be fine. 

Remember: if your child has autism they will not grow out of it so don’t let this put you off!

  • Shall we discuss this another day?”

Which really means they are hoping to avoid the issue and hope you don’t notice.

Remember: take notes and remind them at your next visit you have something that needs discussing!

  • He/she is very complex.”

Which means that they really are not sure what to do with your child and hoping someone else will take over. 

Remember: if a doctor or therapist says this make sure they are working alongside everyone else dealing with your child so that this is not used as a cop-out. 

  • I’ll see you back in clinic in six months time.”

That translates to they have ticked the box to say they have seen you and they hope whatever the issues were that they will have disappeared by time you get seen again.

Remember: make a note somewhere on when you were seen and start chasing the next appointment in a few months time. Write down your concerns and make sure you are being heard.

  •  “What do you want us to do for you?”

This means they are trying to manage and limit your expectations from day 1 and they are also checking IF they can actually help at all. 

Remember: not every service is right for your child but if you feel a service CAN help push them to do so. Sadly they are often under pressure not to take every case on that is referred. 

  • The next step is for you to attend this course before I can do anything else.

Invariably that will be some sort of parenting course. Sadly it is still endemic to blame the parents before any real issues with the child are even looked at. 

Remember: it is not mandatory to attend any parenting course but often doing them can help and it also shows professionals you are engaging with them. As annoying and insulting as they are at least you can prove you are not to blame. 

  • I was speaking to my colleague about this.”

What this means is they feel they are out of their depth and may be looking to blame a colleague for some new idea or treatment rather than taking responsibility themselves.

Remember: this is YOUR child and if you feel uncomfortable with any professional talking to anyone, be that colleagues or other agencies, then make sure they know! Data protection means you have a right to privacy and confidentiality at all times. 

  • “I was planning to do such and such a test and speak to so and so in due course and get back to you at a later date.”

What this really means is they are delaying diagnosis in the hope at least one other person will state they have not seen signs in your child.

Remember: While basic tests like eye tests and hearing tests are useful and gathering information is wisdom, you can not be left indefinitely in limbo land for too long. It is important if your child does have autism that they get diagnosed and helped as soon as possible. Insist on calling back in a months time to ensure you are not being forgotten. 

  • Have you tried….(fill in the blanks with anything from hypnotherapy, hydrotherapy, ABA, a certain support group in the area, melatonin for sleep and so on)?”

This really means they are hoping you will say ‘ah yes we did this and such a thing is now no longer an issue’ so that they can discharge you. 

Remember: just because something works for others does not mean it will work for your child too. There is no harm is trying a change of diet (providing not harmful) or different forms of therapy, but there is no one size fits all in life and your child may need something totally different. 

  • That’s just all part of autism.”

Ridiculously some professionals seem to think once your child has autism that every other niggle or health concern they have is therefore related even if that is a rash, a headache or as crazy as tooth ache!

Remember: while autism is a complex neurological and developmental condition your child still has a right to treatment for bowel issues, pain and any other medical issues. Do not be fobbed off with the autism card! 

  • You look like you could do with some respite!

This translates as you could really do with brushing your hair and the matchsticks holding your eyes open are rather obvious today.

Remember: if they truly think this make sure they do something about it! Insist they pass that comment on to the right people or explain the process of getting respite!
Finally I will end with this one because of all the comments professionals give me this one angers me the most: ‘

  • We find working with the teachers is a better use of our time that working directly with your child.

Really? What that means is they place way more value on a teacher (who does not have autism) than they do on your child who desperately needs help! 

Remember: while few of us actually enjoy challenging professionals we have to fight for our children. Do not allow system failures to fail your child. 
Whatever therapists and doctors tell you always remember you are the parent. You were the one to raise concerns and you are the one who knows your child best. Make sure everyone is working with you and for you. 
Also note you will sometimes hear those wonderful words we all love so much: ‘

  • “I believe you!”

I hope more of us hear that one than the others! 

10 thoughts on “Professional Speak Translated For The New Autism Parent 

  1. Miriam, whilst I usually love your blog and totally appreciate all your comments, I don’t really agree with this one. There really is a genuine reason why a professional would say many of these things, especially the last one about working with teachers. I know I would rather, if the OT/SLT/PT only has one hour a fortnight, that they use this to teach my child’s TA how to carry out the activities everyday, or teach his teacher how to model using his AAC device throughout the day, than just take him out for an hour session which I know he will struggle to generalise once he’s back in class. I would also love it if a professional said “What do you want us to do to help”, shows they’re listening to you, seeing you as the expert, and basing their goals on what is most meaningful to you as a family. Assuming they listen to your answer of course!

    Liked by 1 person

    • See I don’t see the value in working exclusively with teaching staff when they move schools, take maternity or long term sick or such like (which has sadly been a very common experience for us). Also with a non verbal child how am I supposed to get any feedback on what is going on if they don’t work with my child? Teachers are not therapists and I believe the therapist should work with the child first and then the teacher but they should always work with the parent who has the child much longer than anyone else!
      The what do you want us to do question was used several times with me to claim they could not help my child and trying g to say they were the wrong service (both camhs and speech therapy passed back and forth to each other both asking what do you want us to do? And both saying no that is not what we do’
      I base my writing on my own experiences and these have been experiences I have had.
      I am glad you haven’t though and hope many more have positive experiences like yours.
      Thanks for reading and commenting.


  2. I found doing my outreach job that certain professionals were quick to fob off work they should have been doing on to others, particularly us! At times I was explaining a child’s autism to them and doing roles carried out by a social worker. I didn’t mind this to an extent, I just wanted to help children and their families. But, I felt some professionals were clueless and that’s why they would pass the buck to us x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My daughter has ASD. Her diagnosis was made around the time of her 16th Birthday, she’s now 21. This made me smile and empathise with our situations. My daughter is hoping to finish her degree from this September but is no longer in student halls of residence but a flat….
    I am struggling because her job for the summer was withdrawn and therefore I have been helping her!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As a professional involved in the process of diagnosing autism, as well as a parent of a child with ASD, I can genuinely say, with hand on heart that pretty much every single one of those translations is totally incorrect.

    I think this article is highly misleading for parents of newly diagnosed children and hugely unfair to professionals who genuinely do care are working in a system that is underfunded and lacking the resources we need to help our patients.


    • This is my experience and while I am sure there are some great professionals like yourself there are equally many who are not supporting families. Even this week I took my son to an appointment to be told the clinician had not turned up and the clinic was cancelled!
      I am glad you care and wish many others did too!


  5. I had to laugh at this. I know there are a lot of caring professionals out there, but there is still so much unknown about autism and new ideas coming out all the time so my expectations over the last 20 years have fallen. My oldest child on the spectrum is now 23 my youngest is 5 and was diagnosed a year or so ago. The conversations haven’t really changed in all that time. Speech therapy seems to have come a long way though, or we’ve really lucked out with ours.
    This post sounds like me after every hospital “ticking box” visit 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Professional Speak Translated For The New Autism Parent  | L8in

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