How to help a friend who has an Autistic child
The Autism population is rising. 1 in 68 is diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Chances are, you will know someone with a child on the spectrum. Whether your friend's child is newly diagnosed or not they will need supportive and understanding friends.
Many times it's difficult to know what that means. You may shy away and be distant in fear of doing or saying something wrong. Or it may seem as your friend is pushing away from you. But don't let that put a wedge in your friendship. They might need you now more than ever.
What should we do?
Do assure them you will be there as you have always been.
Do a little bit of research on autism. Be familiar with common terms such as stimming, meltdowns and sensory processing disorder. You don't have to be an expert, knowing basic terms mean a lot.
Do make a meal or bring a treat over (with advance notice). Parents are often too exhausted to cook and might avoid going out to eat for fear of their child having a meltdown in public. Bringing a casserole over might make their day easier.
Do understand that texting or social media may be the preferred method of communication. Schedules can be hectic. The ability for a spectrum parent to chat is often a small window of time spread throughout the day.
Do join an online group or page to support your friend. Joining a support group will show you are willing to learn and be a part of the community. You might learn a lot of great information.
Do teach your children about autism acceptance. Teaching your child about differences is beneficial to your child as well. They will learn about diversity, inclusion, and empathy. Different does not mean less!
Do reassure your friend. Reassure them you know they are doing the best they can. Even the slightest criticism with good intentions may hurt or annoy your friend. And chances are they are already criticizing themselves in every way.
Do invite your friend to gatherings and events. Also, do not take it personally if they keep refusing the invites. In my experience, I've always appreciated invites even though I couldn't make it most of the time. It's always nice to feel wanted and not forgotten.
Last but not least
Do accept your friend and her ASD child as a package deal. It may be silly or obvious to say but you'd be surprised how often "friends" will attempt to exclude a child because they're different. Unfortunately, this is from my personal experience.
These are simply guidelines. Each parent is different and has different needs. The best thing to do is talk to your friend, give them a hug and be someone they can lean on.
I was unbelievably fortunate to have found a friend who has been there for me in many ways. She did what she could to learn about autism. She researched, asked questions, and was genuinely interested in knowing me AND my son Tony. There were times when we didn't get together for months and she always understood. Twelve years later, she is still my strongest supporter.
What else do you feel you can do to be there for your friend?
You can read more about Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD and meltdowns here at eMaxHealth, written by Brooke Price.