Autism Awareness Month
Helping a Friend Affected by Autism
Embrace a mother who needs to stay connected
April is Autism Awareness Month. And with autism now affecting 1 in 97 boys, chances are you have a friend or family member with a child on the spectrum. Do you ever wonder, “Gee, how can I help?” but aren’t sure where to start? Oh ho! Let me help you!
Think about how wonderfully women mobilize to help when a friend has a baby or (heaven forbid) becomes gravely ill. Dinners show up at the door. Kids are invited over for play dates so Mom can rest. Now apply those acts of kindness to your friend with an autistic child.
Give your friend a gift certificate for a manicure or a massage and tell her you’re coming over to watch her child for two hours. Don’t timidly ask, “Would you like me to watch Janey?” She’ll turn you down, thinking it might be too much to ask. Tell her your time is part of the gift. Two hours in autism-time is like a week’s vacation, trust me.
And the manicure or massage will be a luxury most autism Moms forego to pay for the incredible expenses of autism and/or simply because time is at a premium.
Another great gift idea is a bookstore gift card. Two quiet hours with a new book and a cup of coffee in a bookstore would be sheer heaven!
If you’re nervous about watching her child (maybe you’ve seen some behaviors or don’t know quite what to expect) I suggest go to her house for the two hours, and leave your own children at home with Dad or with a friend. The child with autism is most comfortable at home, in familiar surroundings.
Heck, if you offered to come to my house? I’d flip on the TV for two hours or let my kids use the computer for two hours while you held down the fort. I’d make it easy for you to watch them, I’d be so grateful for the break.
And don’t forget the siblings of an autistic child – they need some TLC too. The stress in the household doesn’t pass them by. Invite the sister or brother to the movies or for a play date at your house. Mom will appreciate the gesture as much as the child.
Autism can make for a lonely life as you watch your friends’ children develop and grow while your own child struggles. By reaching out to your friend with a child on the spectrum, you can wrap your arms around a Mom who needs to stay connected.
You can turn mere awareness into action. I hope you will.
In addition to writing for Betty Confidential, Kim writes for The Huffington Post, is Managing Editor of Age of Autism, the nation’s first daily Web newspaper of the autism epidemic, and has own blog called Kim Stagliano. Kim also has multiple projects in progress with her literary agent in New York.