Is Your Child Ugly?

‘Is your son autistic?’

A simple enough question you would think but it provoked further thought and left me wondering whether it’s acceptable for people to be so blunt.

I was recently asked this question whilst we were on holiday and initially I thought, ‘how nice that someone feels comfortable to be able to ask me that question. I didn’t know the person and it was an opening line from her whilst sat on the beach. I’m not certain as to what Joseph was doing at that particular point and what led her to her correct diagnosis but I replied, ‘yes’ and the conversation initially stopped there.

What do you say after someone has asked you that question? And it was a closed one after all. If the woman had said something along the lines of, ‘I have a son/friend who is autistic and I understand some of the challenges you may face’, then I may have felt a little differently about it but I am not sure what the purpose of her statement was. Did she think that by correctly identifying my son’s condition that she would win a free sun lounger? Did she think that I would shout, ‘YES YES how did you know?’ What if my son had been recently diagnosed and or even worse, not diagnosed? It’s possible that it would have made me feel more uncomfortable or upset by the question.

Would it be fine to ask someone, ‘Is your child Ginger?’ or perhaps, ‘Is your child Ugly?’ (and yes they are with a capital G and U. If it’s something blatantly obvious, does it then make it acceptable to mention it?

If a person doesn’t understand what you are saying does that make it acceptable for you to talk about him or her because it may not register with his/her feelings?

I carried this boy for eight months (yes he even stole a bloody month from me), comforted him when he didn’t sleep, cared for him when he was ill and cursed him when his world didn’t coincide with mine. Despite my own attempts at an injection of humour into our crazy life, it shouldn’t mask what should be plainly obvious to all.


We BOTH have feelings. You just have to scrape below the surface.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Ewan Lawrie says:

    There might be a lot in the tone of voice the question was asked in. However, yes, it is a pointless question., since as you say it is a closed one. You don’t say what your son was doing when the question was asked, but I’m sure if the question had been ‘What is the matter with your son?’ you would, quite rightly, have been deeply offended. All of us who are unaffected by the consequences of living with someone on the spectrum know the terminology and labels that the experts apply and we use them in the hope of avoiding saying something even less sensitive and more offensive. Yes, it is offensive. Maybe it is casual prejudice, to use a fashionable term, but you know, maybe it isn’t. You write ‘What do you say after someone has asked you that question?’ and in fact that’s a very good question.

  2. Tina Medlock says:

    I don’t think it was intended as an offensive comment. I doubt many people would intend to cause any upset and unfortunately different terminology bothers people in different ways. You can’t please everyone! I suppose for me, it was the abruptness of the question and what did the person aim to get out of it? I still wouldn’t say, are ugly? Or are you fat though? 😉 It’s great that my blog as allowed not only me to open up but others too. That can only be a good thing! 🙂

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