9 phrases *not* to say to a parent with a child diagnosed with autism

Well-meaning questions or statements can actually be quite hurtful for parents going through a diagnosis.

9 phrases *not* to say to a parent with a child diagnosed with autism

After more than a decade in a clinical setting spent testing, assessing and diagnosing children with a variety of disabilities, life sent me and my wife one of its more ironic twists. Our second child, Ross, was diagnosed with autism. He is non-verbal and on the more severe end of the spectrum.

Having sat on both sides of the diagnostic table, as a health professional and as a parent, provides a unique perspective into the misconceptions that so many of the population seems to have regarding autism.

With the relatively recent elimination of the previous subtypes of autism, we’re left with a broad definition of what autism is and how it looks.

People are often inquisitive because there’s so much they don’t understand about the disorder. Rightfully so, as there’s plenty even professionals still don’t know. But well-meaning questions or statements can actually be quite hurtful for parents going through a diagnosis or treatment process.

To avoid putting your foot in your mouth, here are nine phrases to avoid when you talk to a parent of a child with autism.

1. “Are you sure he is autistic?”

Most parents have struggled with the difficulties that their child is going through and have been as thorough with their child’s care as they can be. Their child sees psychologists, pediatricians, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech and language pathologists, audiologists and more. Instead of questioning whether they’ve done due diligence, ask instead about the diagnostic process. Who did the child see and how long did it take?

2. “But he looks so normal” or “She’s so pretty, it’s hard to believe.”

Parents of any child with a disability have already had to deal with the “death of their imagined child,” the one they spent the entire pregnancy discussing, envisioning and planning to watch grow up. What activities would they do? Where will they go to college? Then they start to realize that some, if not all, won’t happen. It’s a difficult time and the last thing a parent needs to hear is their child doesn’t “look” disabled.

3. “What caused it?”

As a psychologist, this one doesn’t bother me, but several parents I’ve talked to are very irritated by this question. Because we don’t know what causes autism, parents second-guess everything they did during the pregnancy. Every decision is replayed. Until there’s a definitive answer, those questions never go away and parents needn’t be reminded of them.

4. “Does he have any special gifts?”

Fortunately, this question isn’t asked nearly as often as it used to. Only 10% of children with autism have splinter or savant-like skills. Most of the time, asking this just hammers home how very impaired their child is.

5. Avoid clichés.

Saying, “You are so strong” or “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” really only gives the speaker the illusion of being supportive but the parent is still left with nothing. Instead of clichés, ask if there is anything you can do to help and provide something of substance.

6. “I know what you’re going through.”

Unless you have a child with the exact same characteristics as mine, you have no empathy to give. Each child is so unique that even parents who also have a child with autism can’t always relate easily to other parents.

7. “Remember to make time for yourself and spouse.”

This sounds like good advice except parenting a child on the severe end of the spectrum is a never-ending job. If you’re going to mention this, be the mechanism that allows it by offering to babysit and providing some of that elusive respite yourself.

8. “I’m sorry.”

This statement is meant to deliver sympathy, but many parents aren’t seeking sympathy. They don’t have time for it. A better way to deliver a similar thought is to expand on it. “You have a lot on your plate and your friends and family are aware of it. If there’s anything I can do, please let me know.”

9. Silence

Not saying anything is the worst of them all. Parenting a child with special needs can be very isolating. Don’t ignore their children or pretend they don’t have any when you talk to parents. They’d rather you say any of the well-meaning (but off-putting) statements above than just avoid us altogether.

Clearly, there’s a theme to much of the advice above. Be proactive instead of passive. If this is a friend of yours, volunteer to help rather than remaining ignorant and inadvertently being part of the problem.

Originally posted on HuffPost.

10 must-have registry items that will change your life, mama

The baby gear heavy hitters that should be top of your list

Calling all mamas-to-be! It's a fundamental truth of (impending) motherhood that your prepping-for-baby To Do list can feel a mile long, but really the best way to feel organized is to sort out the most important item at the top of your list: your registry. Sure the items you choose to include will end up running the gamut from nice-to-haves to absolutely essential game-changers, but mamas in the know quickly learn one thing: Not all baby gear is created equal.

So while you can and should pepper your registry with adorable inclusions that aren't necessarily can't-live-withouts (go ahead, add 'em!), you should make sure you're ticking the boxes on those pieces of baby gear that can be absolute life savers once you're in full-blown mama mode. From car seats to bouncers and playmats, your play and travel gear will be some of the most obvious important items on your list, but so can unexpected things, like a super comfy baby carrier and a snooze-inducing white noise machine. So to help you sort through the must-have options, we turned to the holy grail of motherhood that is buybuy BABY and handpicked 10 of the very best essential pieces that will change your life, we promise.

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

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