There are often discussions about what NOT to say to parents about their children with autism. I wrote about it myself – how some innocent questions and comments can actually be painful for a mama raising a child with autism. Although well meaning, some comments have the opposite of the intended effect.
But please say something. Saying nothing can almost be worse. Someone recently asked me: what CAN someone say that is considered kind and helpful? That simple question stopped me in my tracks. Just asking it was a huge first step. I had a few simple suggestions that would go a long way with sensitive mamas. I’ve listed them below.
1) Ask the mother if there are any resources or books you can read to learn more about autism. That tells her you are interested in, and care about her child.
2) Ask the mother if a play date would be helpful and that you would be happy to host. Our guys need social interaction and an opportunity to practice their social skills. Sadly, they are often the last ones to get invited on a play date. Offering to host tells a mom that you’re not afraid of her child and that you are open to fostering a friendship between the child with autism and her own child. Feel free to step it up and make sure to invite the child to your kiddo’s birthday party. Those invitations can be rare occurrences as well.
3) Compliment her child. Mamas with kids on spectrum seem to only hear the negative stuff. Many dread what they’re going to read in the school agenda and worry that every time the phone rings it will be the school reporting yet another “incident”. Like every mother, we want to hear that our kids are awesome and it’s nice for someone to notice. It doesn’t have to be anything big. Here are some examples:
“I noticed your son’s language is really coming along.”
“Your daughter was really kind to my child today.”
“I was volunteering in the class today and noticed your son sat really well in circle!”
These are just a few simple suggestions that will make a tremendous difference in the life of moms of children with autism. Don’t be afraid to talk to us. We’re moms just like you, and like all moms, we love to talk about our kids – even the ones with autism.
About the Author:
Julie Cole is co-founder of Mabel’s Labels Inc., the leading provider of kids’ labels, and a proud mom of six.