Though more children than ever are receiving autism diagnoses, there continues to be a tremendous amount of incorrect information available about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). For a parent of a newly diagnosed child, this often means needing to educate family members or even facing disagreements about the diagnosis.
When a child is diagnosed with ASD, it is a life-changing event. There is often a feeling of validation, when a professional finally acknowledges what the parent has seen all along, but there can also be anxiety, fear, and even grief over their prior vision of raising a child.
At this time, both the parents and the child will need to feel supported. We thought it was important to highlight acceptance of those on the autism spectrum and their inclusion in all aspects of life by offering advice on how you can show your support. If your friend or family member has been recently diagnosed, consider these three ways to be there for them.
1. Take Time to Understand Behaviors
A crucial way to show support for a child with ASD is to take time to delve into books and other reputable sources to gain a fuller understanding of autism. Simply doing a Google search will lead to a good amount of misinformation, some of which is even potentially dangerous. Proper research, however, will enable you to have a more educated view and you will inevitably become a more supportive resource.
As you research, however, take time to understand the specific child’s behaviors. Autism does not look the same between children. Though people assume, for instance, that a lack of eye contact can indicate autism, children exhibit all sorts of behaviors that may or may not include that lack of eye contact.
In addition, do not assume the child is developmentally delayed in some capacity or treat them as such. Instead, recognize the behaviors and work to understand the reasons behind them. Focus on the individual child, and ask the parent any questions you might have that they are comfortable answering.
2. Find Ways to Relieve Feelings of Isolation
Often, families with a child on the autism spectrum end up experiencing isolation of some sort. Beyond feeling alone with the diagnosis, the family might notice the child being excluded from playdates with peers or their friends who do not know how to react tend to avoid the situation altogether.
In reality, what both the child and the parents need most is the presence of friends and family. Consider:
- Including the child diagnosed with autism on a playdate with neurotypical children
- Offering to give the parents time off
- Ask if you can come over for a visit
- Initiate plans with the parents that can be flexible
- Call to check in regularly and discuss things other than autism
3. Just Listen
After learning a family member or friend has received an ASD diagnosis, it might be hard to think of the right thing to say to the parents. The truth is you don’t actually need to say anything. Instead, simply listening and allowing the parents the space to talk about everything going on is exactly the type of support that is needed.
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