Lately it seems that I have been surrounded by people whose children are newly diagnosed with autism. Talking them through the days ahead brings back memories of what it was like for us.
Autism is an all-consuming disorder and when your children are young and you are dredging your way through those early years, wondering what the future is going to be like, there isn’t a lot of time to come up for air.
Here are a few things you can do to support someone who has a child on the autism spectrum:
1. Ask what they need. Running errands with a child with autism is very difficult. They are often overwhelmed in public places. I left many a full grocery cart in the store when my daughter was growing up because she just could not make it through the rest of the trip. If you are running anywhere, the dry cleaners, the grocery store, the pharmacy, call and see if they need anything. Ask often. It may take them a while to get comfortable with your offer before they give in and let you do it.
2. Invite them to your house, on a play date, anywhere. Having a child with autism is very isolating. He or she is usually not the playmate other children their age choose. They get overlooked and, in turn, their moms do too. Do you know who the best teacher is for a child with autism? A child without. Even if they come over and the child with autism is only interested in your heater vents and your kitchen sink, invite them again. If a play date doesn’t seem like it would work for whatever reason, ask the mom out for coffee or a glass (or bottle) of wine. She needs your company and a night out, more than she even knows.
3. Include them. Does your husband coach soccer? Are you a Girl Scout leader? Sunday school teacher? Friends with your daughter’s dance instructor? Invite them to join. Do whatever you can ahead of time to prepare others to be open and accepting to their child. Being out and about in the community is very difficult for families of children with autism. Many don’t get involved in activities for years because they are worried about how their child with handle the situation and how others will treat them. The best thing you can do is make sure they feel welcome and pave the way for them to join, making sure they feel supported and not judged.
So there is my list, all of the things that can make those early years a bit more bearable. And with only three things? It should be easy for you to pick one to try 😉
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