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Friday, April 8, 2011

"How can I help? What can I say?"

I've been dealing with the wonderful world of autism for a little over 8 years now. I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I do know quite a bit about it. I can't think of a time during this experience that I haven't been reading, online, or asking questions. That said, there is still alot left for me to learn. People that do not have a child on the autism spectrum could not possibly be expected to know all the little ins and outs of this weird, unexpected little world.This post is for those people.

I had a friend tell me once "I just don't know what to say or do." I understand that. I've been there myself with other issues my friends have dealt with. Sometimes you just can't think of anything to say, either because you don't know what is appropriate, or you don't know anything about the issue. I've come up with a few things that as a friend or relative, you can say to a parent of a child on the autism spectrum. I know we can be a little sensitive, but hey, wouldn't you? We're always on alert, just in case someone says something mean, because believe me, those people are out there, and they say some pretty mean stuff. Unfortunately, we get gun shy. However, we do want and need support, especially from friends and relatives. Autism is isolating. Alot of times you feel alone, like nobody gets it. We need our friends and family to be there, even just in thought and email.
Now on to the list...
  1. Offer help. Something simple like offering to grab something while you're already at the grocery store is a huge help. When my kids were younger and my husband was working crazy hours, it would be a huge 2 hour ordeal just to grab a roast for supper. You could also offer to watch the kids for an hour so that mom can get a much needed nap. A girl's night out or an offer to watch the kids while mom and dad have a night out is also a wonderful gift.  We might not take you up on it, but the thought means so much.
  2. Call or email to check in. Like I said before, we tend to isolate ourselves. You get your head down and trudge through, and sometimes forget to look up every once and a while. Just a little note to say "Are you ok? What's going on lately?" is all that's needed to help us stop for a moment.
  3. Offer your shoulder. Hearing your friend say "I'm here anytime you want to talk, cry, scream, etc." means so much.
  4. Periodically ask for an update on the kids. It feels nice for anyone to know someone cares enough to ask about your kids or yourself. 
  5. Try to read a little about autism. Ask your friend for the name of a good book or blog you can check out. Having friends that "get it" is very special. 
  6. Help raise awareness just because you care. Last week I learned that two extremely irreplaceable friends did a 5k walk for autism, in honor of 2 kids, one being mine. I can't even begin to describe the emotions that ran through me. I felt love, pride, humbled, and probably feelings that don't even exist. They probably have no idea the impact that one action had on me, but knowing they thought of us in that way is amazing.
Dealing with autism is tiring, and it can really get you feeling pretty low. With any issue, it's good to have a friend to lean on, or talk to. I hope some of these ideas help those that are unsure of how to help. We don't need much, a hug is just fine. We just want to know you're there.


Brian M. said...

Great article baby, im stealing it :)

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