Do you know a family member or friend dealing with Autism? When a family has a child with autism, their lives are changed on many levels, including their relationships. Often friends and family want to be supportive, but just don’t know how and will often pull away — leaving the family feeling isolated. There are ways, however, to stay engaged and help a family that would welcome and benefit from the support of their family, friends and community.
#1. Just Being a Shoulder to Lean on Goes a Long Way.
Yes, this may seem to be common sense, but it cannot be stressed enough because most families just need someone to talk to about the daily challenges that life throws at them. Even if you don’t know what to say, just listening and reassuring them that you are there helps more than you know.
#2. When is the Right Time to Talk About Autism?
When talking about autism, it depends on the family. There are some families that don’t want to talk about or discuss their child’s diagnosis, and then there are families who want to talk about it to help others understand. It’s best that you let them bring up the subject of autism. In the meantime, asking questions about how the child is doing is a great way of showing the family that you care.
#3. What a Child With Autism Looks Like.
There is no specific look to autism. So commenting that “He doesn’t look or seem like he has autism” is not the best phrase to use during a conversation. Of course, people are curious about it, but making a comment like that could make the family feel like they are being judged and cause them to withdraw.
#4. There’s No Way to Predict the Child’s Future.
Asking the questions “What’s the Prognosis?” or “Will he grow out of Autism?” are inappropriate and are offensive to many families. Also, there is no way to know what the future may hold for the child.
#5. Educate Yourself with Current Events.
A great way to show your support would be to learn more about autism. If friends or family members are open to talking about it, sharing articles and recent events could be helpful to the conversation. Also, it could make that family or friend feel comfortable opening up to you, because you are showing them that you are interested in learning more about their child’s diagnosis.
#6. Schedule Friendly Play Dates.
Children with autism benefit socially by playing with neurotypical children. Your child may likely benefit from the experience, too by teaching them about acceptance, empathy and interacting with those with differences.
#7. Passing Judgement Helps No One!
Parents and their families dealing with autism face judgement everyday doing routine activities with their child such as going to the grocery store, the playground, and out to eat. No matter how relevant and constructive you think your advice to the child or their family, expressing it could damage your relationship with the family or affect the child emotionally. Until you walk a mile in that family’s shoes it is better to keep well-meaning advice under wraps.
#8. It is Not Your Story to Tell.
Perhaps you believe that the family’s experiences raising a child with autism might be helpful in educating those who haven’t experienced it or have recently had their child diagnosed. However, it is best if you not share a family’s experiences with others — even if they are open about it — without the family’s approval. And if they choose not to share their personal narrative, be respectful of their decision.
For more information about autism, please refer to the following resources…