If the child seems to be using repetitive language because he is anxious or worried, set aside time to talk about his concerns…Come up with a reassuring phrase that addresses his concern, such as, “That’s only make-believe. It’s not real.”

Crissey, Pat (2013-12-02). Teaching Communication Skills to Children with Autism (Kindle Locations 2094-2095). Attainment Company, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Basically tell the kid that what they are afraid of or anxious about isn’t real, it’s just fake.  That’s a great way to calm down anxiety (read that with a voice saturated in sarcasm).  You don’t downplay something that causes someone anxiety.  You talk to them about it and recognize that it is something that causes them anxiety, not ignore it or downplay it.  This is some seriously terrible advice.


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  1. This is the one time in the history of ever that I would suggest that a parent of an autistic child go read Bettelheim.

    Specifically, Bettelheim’s THE USES OF ENCHANTMENT, in which he talks about the importance of fairy tales as a language for childhood emotional development. (The part where he blames autism on “not having access to developmentally-appropriate fairy tales” is hilariously wrong but appears only in passing). In short, kids may latch on to “make-believe” fears, like monsters or witches or what have you, because the story captures an emotional reality that resonates with them even though they’re aware the facts are not necessarily factual. The monster under the bed may be make-believe, but the fear that assumes its form is very real. And Bettelheim was very clear that saying “that’s only make-believe” is actually the worst thing you can do – you deprive the child of the one language they have to articulate and process a very real, very human fear.

    Advice so bad even Bettelheim knew it was crap. That’s an achievement.


    1. And this is in a book that we are required to read. This is a book dedicated to teachers and service providers who work with these kids who have “make-believe” anxiety. That’s what pissed me off the most, honestly.


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