Parenting is tough enough as it is. Just think of all the times you wished for an extra helping hand or a kind comment. Now take a parent of a child on the autism spectrum and double that, maybe even triple it. Half the battle of parenting a child with autism is having a big enough cheering section to pull from when you need it. Won’t you consider being a part of some mom or dad’s cheering squad?
The next time you meet or hear of someone who has a child on the autism spectrum, be brave and take action. And remember that assisting families who are dealing with challenging circumstances should not be a time limited endeavor but a year round effort. If you know a parent with a child on the autism spectrum and want to help but aren’t sure what to do here are four ways to show your support:
Make Contact – Whether the mom you know is a relative, friend, neighbor or coworker give her a call, send her a card, an email or a text message offering supportive words. If you are inclined to give a gift, consider a contribution of your time by offering to do some errands or cook a meal.
Offer respite – If you know how exhausting being a parent of a typical child can be - try doubling or tripling it – and you will get a feel for what it is like to parent an autistic child. Extend an invitation to watch or entertain your friend’s, neighbor’s, relative’s autistic child even if it is just for 15 or 30 minutes. Providing a short break from the hyper vigilance these parents have to practice every hour of the day can be the most beneficial thing you can do for them.
Gain some understanding – Do some research or reading on the subject of autism so you can acquire more of an appreciation of what it is like for parents to have a child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The more informed you are about autism, the more likely you are to feel comfortable around autistic children and offer a helping hand.
Share resources - When you come across new information, ideas and supportive resources, about autism, don’t assume the parent already has this information - share it with them. Don’t worry that you may be duplicating information, hearing something twice never hurt anyone but not helping them stay abreast of beneficial services might.
Still hesitant? If you need a nudge to get you moving in the right direction just picture yourself in their shoes. A short investment of your time supporting a parent of a child with autism will be well worth the effort when you sense the relief they feel and see that glowing smile blossom across their face.