In Part 1, I told my own family’s story, and shared a few of my own opinions about autism awareness month.

So, how can you best support a family living with autism?

Making Autism Awareness Month count this April means supporting a family who is living with it. Before you whip out your checkbook to write a big old check to a national autism mega-charity, let me make a suggestion.

Ask an autism family you love, what they need.

It’s that simple.

But hold that thought for a moment and I will get back to it, because, we first need to…

Examine your motives.

Are we interested in truly helping a family in the way they need to be helped? Or are we simply interested in making ourselves feel better because we’re helpless to control the situation?

These are important questions to ask ourselves any time we want to “help”. If we are truly interested in helping another person, we will first truly listen to what it is they need, without judgment or making an assumption that we know better.

For example, an autism family shared with me that their 4-year-old child’s birthday was approaching, and his grandparents asked what gifts he might want. When the family honestly shared that the child needed money for therapy, their request was met with disapproval.

The grandparents, feeling this was not an appropriate birthday gift, opted instead for the latest and greatest toy, wrapped it beautifully with fancy paper and bows, and awaited their feeling of satisfaction for their grandchild to tear into it with glee.

But alas, that was not to be. The child had no interest in the toy, or tearing into the paper to even find out what was inside. The parents were frustrated, and the grandparents were disappointed.

This may seem like a harmless story about gift-giving gone wrong, but it’s really not about the gift at all. It’s about the giver. This family was inadvertently given the message that their need was not as important as the grandparents’ desire for normalcy.

Perhaps they had not yet accepted autism was their grandchild’s reality.

Or perhaps they just didn’t know how important it was to this family that they listen to their needs.  Truly listen.

A few words about giving to autism mega-charities

At the risk of angering the autism Gods…and the people who run charities, often the best way to help a family is not to give to the national autism mega-charity who established blue as the official color of autism.

And that means you won’t get the tax deduction.

But then that would be about the giver, wouldn’t it?

Now, we’re ready to move onto asking a family what they need.

Go to part 3.