How to Help Parents of a Child with Autism: 6 Steps - MakeSureHow
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Parenting a child with autism leaves many parents feeling overwhelmed.


Your best friend's child was just diagnosed with autism. You might wonder what to say or do, but it's simpler than it seems. Most parents of a child with autism appreciate any sincere and empathetic gesture. Nix the impulse to try to fix things and focus instead on identifying and filling needs.

Steps

  1. 1
    Get educated. Children with autism or an autism spectrum disorder might display symptoms ranging from mild language or social impairments to severe symptoms that limit daily interactions. Contact the American Autism Society or the Autism Society to learn more about common characteristics of autism.
  2. 2
    Lend a listening ear. Children with autism and their families have many challenges, but these kids also have unusual gifts and abilities. Ask parents about their child frequently. Ask about challenges, but don't forget to ask about positive moments as well.
  3. 3
    Invite the family over for social gatherings. A child with autism has difficulty reading social cues and communicating, so the child might also have unpredictable meltdowns or break items in the house. Inevitably, they don't get invited for play times often and parents might become socially isolated as well. Invite a child with autism to your home occasionally for play time. Talk with the parents beforehand about strategies that work and keep the play time structured. Try just an hour or two, at first. The parents get a break and the child gets to practice social skills. Invite the whole family over occasionally for dinner or game night.
  4. 4
    Resist the urge to dole out advice or make judgments. Chances are parents of a child with autism have already poured through books, consulted experts and joined a support group. Unless you're an expert in the field or have a child with autism yourself, you probably can't say much that parents don't already know. One of the hardest elements about having a child with autism is dealing with other parents' opinions. Strangers, friends and even family members may express the view that parents should "Just give that child a good spanking." These sorts of remarks are not helpful or appropriate, and add to parents' feelings of isolation.
  5. 5
    Take on some basic household tasks for the parent. Offer to drive the carpool, pick up dry cleaning or babysit other children so parents can attend to a child with autism. If you see a parent in public struggling with a child having a meltdown, offer a hand. Carry groceries or keep an eye on other children. Sometimes, just having another calm, empathetic adult around can make all the difference.
  6. 6
    Offer encouragement and support. Reassure parents of a child with autism that they're doing the best they can -- and that's enough. Some parents talk openly about autism, while others are more private. Let parents guide conversations and don't share information with others unless a parent gives you permission to do so. Some parents resent the label of autism. Be respectful and ask for clarification if you're not sure.

Article Info

Categories: Education and Communications

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