Special Learning Logo Light
Overcoming Prejudice And Isolation

Overcoming Prejudice and Isolation

prejudice and isolation are two things parents may encounter when their child is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD or autism). Isolation can take the form of:

  • Emotional isolation
  • Physical isolation
  • Social isolation

Even before the diagnosis, parents may feel isolated because of the feeling that something is not quite right in their child plus the difficulty of explaining the situation to others. A period of grief follows the diagnosis along with a range of other emotions/feelings as parents try to cope and come to terms with their situation.

Although children with a diagnosis of autism will often reach motor milestones, such as walking at around the typical age expected in “normal” development, parents are painfully aware of all the other milestones their child does not achieve. In addition, parents find it difficult to talk to other people who do not really understand the unique difficulties and challenges of autism. This pushes parents further into emotional isolation and, eventually, this may turn into physical isolation as they begin to withdraw from others. The multilayered facets and complexity of autism become too hard to explain.

Just getting through each day can be a major challenge for parents. Getting ready to go out can be difficult and stressful, as the child often needs to perform routines and rituals that are time-consuming. Dealing with tantrums and other unusual behaviors while out may be met with disapproval from strangers who may think of the tantrums as a lack of proper discipline. Add to this the sleepless nights and eventually, parents may become too exhausted to even bother going out, which may result in social isolation.

One way in which parents can cope, in general, is to find out as much as they possibly can about autism. However, they may find very little in the resources available to them, which may lead them to go on a quest to investigate and learn theories, approaches, and interventions about autism.

In addition to feelings of isolation, some families may come across prejudice, as there are still taboos on disabilities or differences. Some people fear what they do not understand. Some parents do not want their child to mix with or play with a special child because of fear that some of the behaviors will “rub off” on to their child. Some children with autism get excluded from parties, thus social isolation is compounded.

There can also be prejudice from other parents concerning whether the child should be allowed, or remain, in mainstream education if the child is on the higher end of the autism spectrum. Some are quick to judge that the child should be in a special school away from their children.

Joining a support group where parents can meet and be with others who understand the issues and challenges of autism can be a tremendous relief. This also helps alleviate feelings of isolation. Here, parents can share and exchange stories, help and inform each other about experiences, and provide each other with education, services, and available resources.

According to the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), a study conducted by Mandell and Salzer found that only two-thirds of respondents in a survey belong to a support group. Parents of children with self-injurious behavior, sleep problems, and severe language deficits are more likely to belong a group. This shows that there are still a large number of families who may not be referred to a group, but who could greatly benefit from belonging to one.


National Centre for Biotechnology Information. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Mandell DS, Salzer MS: Who joins support groups among parents of children with autism? Retrieved March 26, 2011, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17353212

Copyright © by Special Learning Inc. All right reserved.

No part of this article may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information, contact Special Learning Inc., at: contact@special-learning.com


Leave A Comment


Parent Waitlist Program


November 02, 2023 | 12pm-1pm PDT

Journey to Independence

Community-based program designed to support families on waitlist

Being an RBT for me was extremely fun because where were you going to find a place where you can be completely silly without having to worry what people thought about you? This was the only job that made me feel like I could make a dramatic difference while being myself.

I also liked to be surrounded by people that had the same goals of wanting to help kids and the teamwork made the job much easier and more enjoyable.

Change and progress was the ultimate goal for our kiddos. The early intervention program was seriously only a miracle because I saw changes in the kiddos that from day one, you wouldn’t even recognize who they were.

Changes from being able to utter 3-4 words where they can only make a syllable from when they started, the behavior decreases in which kiddo that used to engage in 30-40 0 self-harm to only half, learning how to wait during games, table work where they use to swipe and drop to the floor if they had to.

My favorite was when the parents would tell us what amazing progress they were making at home. I used to tear up and felt for these parents so much because it was already difficult for them and now, they can trust and rely on ABA and the therapists knowing their goal was ours.

By Emma Rogers, BA, RBT

Mother Child
Special Learning’s Free Hotline

This is an independent SL Hotline that is part of our VCAT service. This hotline has no connection with any other association or membership group.

Got a question you want a BCBA or other ABA expert to answer?
Fill in this form and one of our professionals will handle your question quickly and confidently. You can expect a response in 24-hours or less.