6 Things you CAN
Do or Say to an Autism Mom
1. Talk about it: What mom doesn't love talking about their kid? Rather than treating it like the elephant in the corner and worried about what to say, just ask questions. As long as those questions are coming from a place of understanding and non-judgment, no one’s feelings will get hurt. Understand that they have gone through countless evaluations and testing, so even if the child seems completely normal to you, have faith that your friend knows her child and has gone through the proper channels to reach the diagnosis that they have.
2. Make them feel comfortable: Try to be accepting of their methods. More than likely there’s a reason for handling an issue the way that they do. It may not be the way you would do it, but they know their child best, just as you know yours.
3. Be gentle: Terms and the tone of statements are where the most offense comes from. Avoid referring to their diagnosis as a disease. Whether the parent believes in a cure or not, they don’t see their child as broken or unhealthy. Unless the parent directs the conversation that way, try to stir clear of the latest “causes” of autism, the most painful part of getting a diagnosis is thinking you, as a parent, caused it.
4. Understand that you won’t fully understand: As hard as you try, you can’t completely understand what it would be like to walk in their shoes. They know that and they don’t expect it. That’s why they have their friends from support groups or therapy based play dates. There are things about parenting your child they wouldn't understand, also.
5. Let them vent a bit: I’m sure I've drive a few people nuts about being overly sensitive to a comment or situation. It’s common, we all have our bad days when things get under our skin. They aren't going off the deep end or being too extreme, more than likely it’s the combo of a rough day and something rubbing them the wrong way. Go with it. Part of having to be on your soap box to get services and treatment for your child is speaking your mind and sometimes it’s hard to turn that off. Understand that they get frustrated and are challenged daily in ways that might have not even occurred to you, and they need to let a little bit of that out sometimes.
6. Stand up for them: If you have ever been out with an autistic child and witnessed a meltdown first hand, you know it can be very embarrassing for a parent. Everyone is staring and judging without even considering that there may be more to the story. Be their voice. Politely inform on lookers that it’s simply a meltdown caused by (insert trigger here) and as they can see your friend is doing everything they can and to respect that. I don’t know a single autism mom who would not be grateful for not only the understanding of the situation but an advocate to speak on their behalf.
What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!