What does it look like to truly support a person raising a child with autism?
In parts 1-4, I reviewed both my feelings toward Autism Awareness month, and ways that others can truly help ASD families. I much prefer the term “Autism Support Month” and have shared several ways you can support families living with autism.
In this post I’d like to touch on a few ways you can support autism families without spending a dime. This will be specifically helpful to those of you who have extended family members who you’re not sure how to support.
So often, I share my own personal experiences, raising a 17-year-old son with ASD. But I find the adage is correct that “If you’ve met one child with autism…you’ve met one child with autism.”
So I asked my autism mommies from current and past support groups, what they thought.
Here is the specific question I posed:
“What is the one thing you need most from your extended family?”
Responses varied between moms with medically fragile children and those without as many issues. They also varied from age groups. Teenage kids’ moms tended to want more help…while people with younger kids wanted their families to accept their children more.
Here are a few of the responses, which they gave me permission to share:
“Accept my child and what path I am choosing to take to help her.”
“Ask me how I am.”
“…trust that I am trying my hardest to do what I think is best for my son and stop telling me to ‘leave him alone and he’ll be fine’!
“…listen, and only listen…don’t assume we need your help…don’t assume we need you to ‘figure out things’.”
“Consistency. Autism has enough randomness to it that I need more consistency when it comes to helping me with my son.”
“…accept my child as she is…don’t pity me or her because she is a gift.”
“I no longer want cheerleaders…I wish my family had attempted to help me research.”
“Just a quiet presence.”
“Emotional support when things that have disappeared come around again..”
“Don’t make me feel guilty when we can’t attend family functions…but also don’t exclude us from future events just because we couldn’t get to the previous one.”
“…when someone takes on of my neuro (typical) kids, I am forever saying thank you. They look at me like I’m crazy, but it’s such a big deal for us.”
“Acceptance for the path the entire family is on…no judgment or shame…empathy would be a nice bonus.”
“…stop giving me crap that there isn’t a link between vaccines and autism!”
“Rain Man does not live here, but a cute, funny little man does.”
“…trust that I am not only doing the very best for my (affected) son, but I also have a family to consider so I have to do what’s best for ALL of us.”
Reading these responses was eye-opening for me as well. Every child is different so every family will be different as well. In some you will see anger, others sadness. Some just want acceptance.
Ask the autism family you love what ONE thing they need most from others.
You just may be the one to provide it.