HOW FRIENDS AND RELATIVES CAN HELP THE PARENTS OF AN AUTISTIC CHILD
A lot of things will change in the parents’ life when their child receives an autism diagnosis. Relationships between friends and relatives will either change for the better or for the worse. There are those who would stand by the parents and the child and and give their full support to the family. Many will choose to stay idle and out of touch with the family, and some may willingly decide to cut their ties with the family whether it’s their friendship or kinship that’s at stake. If you are one of those supportive friends or relatives who cannot afford to neglect the autistic person and the parents through their tough times, let alone abandon them due to selfish reasons, you should know that there are many things that you can do to extend your support and concern. Here are some of the best responses a friend or relative of the autistic child’s parents can make.
Make your presence felt.
As simple as it is, showing yourself can go a long way in helping the parents of an autistic child as their friend or relative. They will need someone they can talk to about the diagnosis and the extra responsibility that they carry with them. They would prefer opening up to someone whom they trust and whom they know is genuinely concerned about them and their child. A lot of times, the most qualified person would be a relative or a good friend who has always been there by their side. You don’t have to know a lot about autism, all you need to do is to be there physically for them because there are cases when parents become too busy attending to their autistic child’s needs that they have no time to make arrangements for gatherings or long talks with their friends and relatives. What you can do to help is to set the meet up yourself, say a simple phone call or email telling that you’d pay a visit, and let your parent friend or relative vent their built up emotions and thoughts about their child’s condition through your talk. You can also interact and play with the autistic child, and even give them an autism-friendly present when you’re there. Be sure to do this every once in a while and not just in a single instance.
Be very understanding and perceptive when it comes to autism-related discussions.
Parents are not all the same, especially when it comes to delicate matters concerning their kids. For autism-related stuff, there are those who are very open and willing to talk about their child’s autism disorder. There are also parents who feel that it’s inappropriate to talk about the nature of their child’s condition. So if you are unsure whether to bring up this specific topic or not in the middle of conversations, the best thing to do is to read cues or wait for signals. If you feel that the parents are trying to avoid discussing this topic or even using the term at all, then you should also do the same and say more generic statements. Even though they feel sensitive about their child’s condition, parents will still be glad if you come to ask about how their child is doing in a universal way of saying. If your parent friend or relative is very open about their child’s autism, one way of letting them know that you care is to listen intuitively to their sentiments, ask for updates and progress on their child, and propose ideas that work for the benefit of your friend or relative and their child.
Aside from personal and serious talks, here are other casual situations where you need to be critical in bringing up autism-related matters.
- Avoid making remarks about the child’s appearance that seem to imply that there’s a standard look for autistic people. Autism is a spectrum disorder, and many autistic individuals indeed look quite ordinary or neurotypical, as much as those that look very different and unique. Saying “your child doesn’t look autistic” out loud in front of the parents will not create positive feelings, but will only offend them in certain cases.
- Do not keep asking about the parents’ future plans for their autistic kid. As a friend or relative, it won’t be reflective that you understand their situation if you don’t realize that raising an autistic child is not the same with raising a neurotypical one. Although parents can still make future plans for their autistic child, there are several variables that cannot be predicted which make it difficult to foresee where their child will be when they grow up. Academic achievement, career, and relationships are all future events that are dependent on how an autistic child responds to early intervention programs and support.
- When the parent friend or relative opens up to you, most of the time, they would expect that you keep the talks confidential. So avoid sharing to others what you have discussed, unless they give you the approval to do so.
Share new and insightful information.
Whenever you come across an article that talks about a potential cure or a new treatment method for autistic people, sharing what you’ve found to your parent friend or relative would mean a lot. But not all information or resources that you find on the internet are reliable, so you need to check first the credibility of your information before sharing it. There are also treatment procedures or autism insights that may not coincide with the parents’ principles or beliefs, that’s why you need to make sure that what you share will not offend them in any way.
Let your kid play and interact with the autistic child, and offer to babysit.
There are times when your parent friend or relative will get stressed out from taking care of their autistic child and would need some rest. Bringing your own child with you during your visits and letting your child play with the autistic kid while you supervise is a great help for the parents.