Autism Parenting Madlibs

As a parent of an autistic child, some time after diagnosis, but before you actually know ANYTHING about autism, you will undergo a slow realization period, wherein you will become inundated with facts and figures, theories, stories and various and sundry apocrypha. During that immersive discovery period, various autism parenting cliches will surface and you will briefly (or maybe even not so briefly) latch onto them as they, at that moment seem to nail your experience. You’ll find yourself nodding your head in solidarity with these sentiments like a jilted lover listening to a country music station.

These cliches are important at first, if for no other reason than to help you frame your child’s experience through someone else’s words, someone who seems more travel-worn and more autism-worldly than perhaps you feel. They make you feel like “someone gets me!” and that’s great, especially at first. But ultimately, as you start your unique journey parenting an autistic child, you find that each cliche eventually collapses under the accumulated weight of the arguments against it; whatever its merits, it also has its deficits, and although it helped frame your world for a time, it framed it incompletely. Except the cliches don’t. go. away. Some are tender and touching and more or less true. Some are broad and general and definitive and somewhat apply, but none of them are particularly ‘helpful’ in any practical sense, and at some point you’ve got to stop reading so many blogs and go raise your kids or go live your life. (But don’t stop reading this blog. Always read this blog.)

Every day someone is asking you if you’ve read the marvelous essay that compares your journey, or your son or daughter’s journey to an unplanned trip to some tulip filled flood plain. Or whether you’ve seen Rain Man. Or if your child can calculate pi to the 100th decimal. Or whether you’ve tried sporn flushing to cure his ‘awful affliction’. And so you trot out the cliches. And the more you trot them out, the more they make you cringe, but perhaps you cringe less than you might if you had to explain it all in your own freshly-minted words every time. Unless…

Try Autism Madlibs. You fill in a noun, adjective or verb, as requested, then plug them into some old, tried and true autism cliches to spring on your friends and family. It’s fun for you, and …AND instructive. It’s useful brain calisthenics to attempt to draw a parallel between your experience and a bunch of random parts of speech. It will amuse you, instruct you, and bamboozle your friends. Win. Win. Win.

Let’s get started. First you need to print out the mad lib sheet. Click the picture below, print it out, and fill in the blanks. Once this is complete you can insert them into some common autism cliches that I’ll supply at the end of the post. If you print the whole post out it won’t really work, because you’ll see the expressions and that’s cheating.

autism mad lib
the list…print it out and fill in the blanks

Did you get them all filled in? If you haven’t done a mad lib, now you read the blanks with the parts of speech you supplied in the sentences previded below out loud. Hilarity ensues.

blank autism madlib
Insert the parts into this here handy blank sheet and VOILA! Pithy new cliches everyone can easily understand!

I’ve taken the liberty of filling out a couple of the cliches myself, so that you can see how this is supposed to work.

I randomly picked numbers 3 and 4…

Autism is a pretzel.
Autism is like a purple giraffe to Cairo.

The benefit to you is a straight-faced delivery of either of these AND as much thought as you can put into the explanation. Remember…this is mental weight lifting for you. Entertainment, Betterment. Win, win.

3. Why yes, Ted, that’s exactly what I said, parenting a child with autism is a pretzel. You see…the twists and turns of the discovery process of diagnosis and all the visits to specialist had us tied in knots. I can’t MENTION the sort of salty language that I used during those trying times, it left me…crunchy, hardened from the experience. Autism is a pretzel. A hard crunchy salt covered pretzel twist.

And if Ted says, “But what about warm soft pretzels?”

Then you give Ted a long-suffering stare and say, “Ted, you don’t know anything about autism, do you? Autism is nothing like warm, soft pretzels.”

Autism is like a purple giraffe to Cairo.

4. Well, Aunt Margaret, what’s the absolute last thing you’d take to Cairo? A giraffe, right? And that’s how unexpected this all was. And it’s a war zone, make no mistake. Much like Cairo, there are constant battles to be fought and treaties to be negotiated with the school, and with day care, and the bruises as we worked through Billy’s biting/slapping issues…well that’s the purple you see on the giraffe. See? It’s right there.

And if Aunt Margaret replies, “Well what about Northern Ireland? That’s sort of a war zone too?”

Well then you look at Aunt Margaret with all the scorn you can muster and say, “They speak English in Northern Ireland…Billy is non-verbal…we have to learn to communicate with him in different ways. Haven’t you been listening?? Northern Ireland is nothing like parenting an autistic child.”

Under the frivolity is a simple truth (and ironically, another cliche): your journey parenting your autistic child is unique and cliche-defying. And the result of the simple, frivolous brain exercise of forcing yourself to frame your own experience in random terms such that they make sense to you is something that no two people will duplicate. There is no “right answer”. There is no cliche powerful enough to encompass all our complexities and challenges.

Nevertheless, have fun, and mad lib responsibly…make sure you leave your favorite (along with your explanation) in the comments!

If you’re unfamiliar with the cliches from which I derived the mad lib, see below. They all have something to offer, outright blunt obvious truth…one person’s philosophy…or deep thoughts on the meaning of it all.

1. If you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism.
2. Real autism isn’t like Rain Man.
3. Autism is a puzzle
4. Autism is like an unplanned trip to Holland
5. There is no cure for Autism. There is only acceptance.
6. Autism is different, not less.
7. Autism doesn’t define my child.
8. Your autism is not like my child’s autism.
9. Having autism is like living on the wrong planet
10. Autism is a blessing in disguise.

About Jim

Jim is a happily married father of two daughters, one autistic, one not. He writes about autism, parenting, and his busy family life at Just A Lil Blog when his busy family life allows.

36 thoughts on “Autism Parenting Madlibs

  1. Just awesome, can’t wait to share! I know a lot of parents who will appreciate this. But my favorite that is not on the list is the growing in popularity “autism is treatable, recovery is possible” My healing son is living proof.

  2. I love this! For me, autism parenting is a Lego block. It comes in different shapes and colors, and if you fit it together with other parenting blocks it makes stronger ones. Some sides to it can be bumpy and, um, if you step on it the wrong way it really hurts your foot. Yeah. That.

  3. Jim, this is the single best post on Autism that I have read in a long long time. I mean, except for the ones on my blog, but anyway…this is the blog I wish I could’ve written. This is it. Carry on “warrior dad”.

  4. *runs off to print both lists to get creative*

    Well done! Also, nice sprinkling of assorted awful cliches throughout. Very consistent on the theme. 😉

    Also — REALLY? MULTIPLICATION?? I haven’t had enough coffee yet!

  5. I felt like I wanted to fit myself into a special needs parent shoe, and I used those cliche’s as a sort of shoe horn to get me into a shoe that didn’t fit, was uncomfortable and ENTIRELY OVERPRICED.

    But what you said here should be put on the wall of every home of every person with a child with special needs (because I can insert Down syndrome where it says autism and have it fit perfectly as well):

    Under the frivolity is a simple truth (and ironically, another cliche): your journey parenting your autistic child is unique and cliche-defying. And the result of the simple, frivolous brain exercise of forcing yourself to frame your own experience in random terms such that they make sense to you is something that no two people will duplicate. There is no “right answer”. There is no cliche powerful enough to encompass all our complexities and challenges.

    • We could get Lizbeth to do the artwork as a quote…then I sign it, you vinyl-cut it, and we’ll mass produce! We’ll go partners and make MILLIONS!!!

  6. The best one that I got…Having autism is like farting on the soap hallway. It really is such a perfect sentence, I have been admiring it for 10 minutes without being able to come up with anything witty to say about it. It speaks for itself.
    It makes about as much sense as anything else I have heard recently. Now I feel giggly. Such a perfect sentence, I must sit here and admire it some more.

    • I love it. I don’t know that any other cliche has EVER nailed it so much as that one. You need to post that as your status now. After you come up with your explanation.

  7. Jim, you’re awesomeness is showing again! Love this! Hard to choose a favorite… would it be “If you’ve jumped 47 bad piggies with autism, you’ve played 19 trains with autism.” or maybe “Autism is like a speedy pancake to Florida.”? Got to get working on my creative explanations for those. :)

    Then there was the obvious one… “Autism is a videogame.” Many different characters, each with their own unique skills and abilities. Lots of challenges to overcome. Different games have different operating systems. I could go on and on…

    • HAH! I love “Autism doesn’t eat my guitar”. I want to hear your explanation of THAT one.

      Well…you see, sometimes autistic kids have eating issues, and sometimes they don’t play appropriately with things, but even if your autistic child doesn’t eat food consistently…and even if he can’t play the guitar the way other kids do…he doesn’t eat it…

  8. Those aren’t the kind of words I plugged into my mad libs as a teen if you know what mean. Luckily, I can’t print the mad lib sheets out because my son has totally removed the printer from my computer and I don’t know how to put it back.

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