It’s a fact: parents of autistic children often feel lonely, misunderstood, are physically and emotionally exhausted, question faith and beliefs, and may be worried about finances. If you are a friend or family member of a parent with an autistic child, one of the best ways to help initially is to offer emotional support as these families tend to feel disconnected from people who don’t fully understand autism. In addition to offering emotional support, you can offer to baby-sit, help with household chores, be an autism awareness advocate, and help locate support groups and respite resources. Here are some other ways to help lighten their load:
An occupational therapist can help a child with autism build the basic social and personal skills needed for independent living. The common characteristics seen in autistic children include, but are not limited to: lack of eye contact, social aloofness, abnormal voice pitch, inconsistent sensory responses, not knowing how to imitate, not wanting to cooperate during imaginative play, resistance to change, aggression, tantrums, and self-injury.
Intervention through occupational therapy can be provided to guide a child into responding to information through the senses. Types of guided intervention are brushing, swinging, playing ball, and other energetic activities to help the child manage his body in space. An occupational therapist can develop personalized strategies to help a child smoothly transition from one life phase to another through interactions with family, friends, and school officials.
Respite care is essentially substitute care that can help parents of autistic children take a much-needed break from the stress of their child’s disability so that they can relax and take care of their own needs momentarily, without interruption. For instance, this can provide a parent with the opportunity to spend time with another child that needs them, bond with their spouse, go to a doctor’s appointment, spend time with friends, or take a nap.
Respite care can be provided by church members, friends, family, or a trusted baby-sitter. Organizations such as The National Respite Network, Family Service Agencies, or Developmental Disabilities Council can be helpful in locating respite care for families in need.
Autism Support Groups are a great way for parents to connect with other families who face a similar situation. Parents can get valuable information and learn new and effective ways on how to interact and better understand their autistic child. Experiences are shared – good and bad, that unite families, alleviating feelings of alienation and loneliness that are often felt outside of a support group.
Tips for Helping Siblings of Autistic Children
It is no secret that siblings of autistic children can feel abandoned or as if they are not as important as a child with developmental delays. Other reported concerns felt by typical children are embarrassment over unusual autistic behaviors, jealousy, concern for their parents’ well-being, and guilt over not having special needs.
You can help a sibling cope with the unpredictable nature of autism by offering age-appropriate explanations about autism, teaching skills on how to effectively bond with an autistic sibling, spend quality time with them, and have open and honest conversations about autism in general.
These are just a few of the ways you can help support the parents and siblings of autistic persons. Remember that they are hurting too and need your help.
About the Author:
Ken Myers is an expert advisor on in-home care & related family safety issues to many websites and groups. He is a regular contributor to www.gonannies.com. You can get in touch with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.