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.
(Photo Credit: BeingMommy.com)
It has been 10 years since my son was diagnosed with autism at the age of three.
Back in those days, you got your diagnosis and you were sent on your way to deal with it. Very little information regarding treatment, agencies, education or help of any kind was provided. It was pretty much a “Yes, your son has autism… don’t hit yourself with the door on the way out” kind of an approach.
I didn’t even know where to get started. Keep in mind – this was long before social media. Finding autism support and connecting with other families was not a click away. Even in those early days, I learned quickly that my very best resource was other parents. I stand by that today. And with so many kids affected, there are more and more parents with experience that you can turn to. For example:
- Other Moms. You can find moms everywhere. School is a great place to start. If you can find moms with a child on the spectrum who are attending the school your child will be attending, connect with them. They can give you the ins and outs of the special education resources available, how to negotiate support for your child, which teachers are best to deal with and basically how to work the system in the best possible way for your child. Going to school is a big move for our kids (and us!) so connecting with school moms prior to school enrollment is key.
- Support groups. I wandered into an autism support group and truly found my people. But you have to find the right group. Some groups are for parents to share in their concerns and maybe have a little cry and get support that way. My support group suited me because we were a group about action. The facilitator was fierce – we were all there because we wanted the best outcomes for our kids and we left with actual tasks to report back on at the next meeting. There was no “There, there, everything will be OK.” And that was fine with me. Make sure your autism support group has the same goals as you do to get the most out of it.
- Online groups. There are countless Facebook groups, Yahoo groups and online communities. What I would have done for that resource 10 years ago! These groups are a great place to have discussions, ask questions and get answers. And who isn’t blogging these days? There are amazing blogs written by parents of children with autism who share their journeys. Find some you connect with and you have instant community.
You don’t have to do this alone. We are here waiting to help you. Find us.
Other related posts by Julie Cole:
Nice Things You Say That Annoy Me
This is Lovely, But….
Helping Not-So-Social Kids Make Friends
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. Getting geared up for hockey finals? Be sure to grab your Hockey Label Combo today!
When I was about six years old, my parents went to Ireland for three weeks. My aunt and uncle stepped up to the plate – they were a lot younger than my parents and a heck of a lot more fun. One night they let us stay up way past bedtime and watch “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”.
It's shocking anyone believes in Santa with beards like that around!
When my parents returned, they seemed very different. They brought us presents and allowed us access to unlimited portions of Irish chocolate. The change in them was so peculiar, it was clear in my mind that they had become victims of body snatching while on holiday. You see, my real parents would never shower us with gifts. Alien invasion was the only reasonable conclusion.
It is for similar reasons that my big kids still believe in Santa. Santa brings them stuff they know I would never buy. It is easy to believe in Santa when you are being raised by a mother who is both mean and cheap. The idea that I would actually buy toys and other nonsense is so outrageous to them that logic dictates Santa must be responsible for such kindness.
The part of me that wants to spoil them rotten and see those little faces light up loves that Santa exists. There are many things I won’t buy them because I don’t like the brand, messaging, batteries, etc. Explaining why I don’t like those products is a valuable teaching opportunity. Being Santa allows me to indulge them with something they want without having it come from Mom.
But this year I have a new dilemma. My eleven-year-old son truly believes in Santa. He also believes in the Tooth Fairy. He is not faking it or desperately/sentimentally trying to hold on to the magic. He believes in Santa because he has autism. Some things are taken very literally, and the Santa thing has played out like this:
- Mom says there is a Santa and Tooth Fairy
- Mom does not lie to me
- Therefore, there is a Santa and Tooth Fairy
I’m happy he believes for his younger siblings, but I’m breaking a sweat imagining him standing around with his buddies at recess, defending the existence of the Tooth Fairy to a bunch of Gr. 6 boys.
So, I think this is the year I have to sit him down and tell him that I’ve been lying to him for eleven years. Then ask him to keep the lie alive for his brothers and sisters. Then hope he doesn’t think I’m lying about everything else.