I just found out our friends have a child with autism. How can I support?

Many of us on this site are likely to be parents or caregivers of a little one with autism, but perhaps you’ve landed here because you have a friend or family member whose child has just been diagnosed – and you want to know how you can support.

Thank you for that! Just caring about knowing more about autism is a great start. It’s even more special when you’re looking for ways to help, support, assist, or understand. We believe a lot of people actually would love to know more about autism, but just don’t know how to go about asking without offending.

Here are some tips on how you can be supportive.

1. Stay in a judge-free zone. If you’re already Googling ways to be supportive, it’s probably safe to say you’re not judging, since you’re researching to learn more. So again, thank you.

Imagine how difficult it must be for a parent whose child is newly diagnosed – how confused they must be, how much they’re likely struggling with how to help their child and also how to keep going on in this very busy world with everything else that was going on before the diagnosis that will keep going even after. A person learning how to parent a neurotypical child has to go through trial and error just as much as a parent with an autistic child, so as much as possible, refrain from giving unsolicited advice or judging how they’re managing. They’re doing their best.

2. Be the secret keeper. Many parents of autistic kids choose to seek therapy services, not only for their child but for themselves. But sometimes, they turn to friends too, just to be able to unleash and unwind and let go. There may be times they’re frustrated and say things that are uncharacteristic because they’re exhausted, or may be thinking out loud. In any case, whatever a parent or caregiver shares with you, consider that it’s being shared in confidence.

3. Learn everything you can. You may have thought before that all kids with autism are similar, but nothing could be further from the truth. You may have thought that vaccines can cause autism, an idea that has been disproven. To be supportive, learn. Research. Spend time with other people who have been touched by autism. And remember to take in information only from credible, reputable sources, so you know that you’re learning the truth.

4. Advocate. Not only can life be tougher for kids with autism, it can be really challenging for their parents too. School systems in your neighborhood may be ill-prepared to embrace a child with autism, or people around the community who don’t know any better may unfairly judge. Stand up for them whenever you can, wherever you can.

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