If you are a friend or a family member of someone who has a child on the autism spectrum you may be unsure of how to help. I assure you there are ways to help and support. As a mom who has been in their shoes I want to give some insight on what that mom or dad needs from a friend.
When the doctor said the words “he is on the autism spectrum” so much in my life changed. I wanted so badly to talk to someone about it all! For a long time I kept it to myself and even shut out family. It was so hard explaining it all to people when I did not even understand. When I opened up to my closest friend I was covered in blessings. My best friend has given me exactly what I needed since day one! There are others that I still have not told even a year later. That is because of how most people did react. I think people really don’t know the best way to react or help. There are very simple things that you can do to help your friend or family member deal with the news of autism and the struggles of daily life. These 10 ways to help can make a huge difference in the life of that parent.
- Listen! Don’t judge. Don’t give advice. Don’t ask questions. Just listen and support.
- If you have questions about autism wait and do research later. Chances are that parent is processing a lot of information and has many questions themselves.
- Share but not too much. Feel free to pass along articles, organizations and resources that you find then allow the mom or dad to look into it on their own. They will be happy to know that you care but you are not pressuring them to do something. And never share their situation with anyone else.
- Take the sibling of the autistic child out for fun. The siblings can feel the pressures of living with their autistic sibling. It is stressful to them as well. To take that child for some time away from that environment is great for that child and the parents.
- Ask “What can I pick up for you?” Getting an autistic child out even for a short errand can be a huge challenge. It is so helpful for someone to offer to pick up that item and deliver it.
- Give mom or dad time away. Offer to watch the kids or child at their home. This include the autistic child and the siblings. Doing it at their home is generally better for the autistic child. Give mom or dad (or both) some time to get out to run errands or just have fun! (Note: It is hard to leave my son with anyone and I know it would be a challenge for that person so I never ask. This is very common. And I can promise you that mom or dad needs some time alone to recharge!)
- If mom or dad is too worried to be separated from their child offer to take the parent and child out. My friend will pick me and my son up and take us to lunch or for coffee. While we are out she helps me with him so I still get a little time to rest while still being close by.
- Treat your friend the same. She is the same person she was before the diagnoses. It is very common for friends to back away, be judgmental or walk on eggshells around their friend after the diagnosis. That mom or dad does not want to be treated any different. He or she just wants their friends to be there.
- Treat the child the same. He or she may be different but she was also different yesterday. Nothing makes me more angry than someone treating my son different once they know about his status. He is still bright, loving, unique, quiet and funny. So treat him and love him like you did yesterday.
- Encouragement! That mom or dad needs it, a lot of it! Some days will tear them down and break their spirit. Be there with a listening ear or kind word to pick them back up. Simple things like a text, phone call, letter or a big hug can do so much for the mom and dad as well as the whole family.