How to Help Parents of Autistic Children

Connie McKinneyStarred Page By Connie McKinney, 26th Feb 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/1c2rzyz-/
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Parenting

Being the parent of an autistic child is not easy. Learn how to help parents of autistic children cope with the stresses of having a child with disabilities.

Parents of Autistic Children Need Support

A child screams, kicks and melts down inside a store while his parents try unsuccessfully to calm him.
Passing shoppers stare, give the parents dirty looks or complain loudly about parents who spoil their children and don't discipline. What they don't understand is that the child has autism and is having a tantrum because of sensory overload. The child can't cope with the store's bright lights, noise and crowds.
Parents of children with autism have a tough job. They need your understanding - not your judgment. The good news is there are several ways people can help parents of autistic children. I've worked with several autistic children and their parents and have seen what kind of support parents need.

Learn About Autism


Even though one in 88 children born today has a diagnosis of autism, many people still don't understand what autism is. Children with autism have difficulty socializing with others, reading social cues and making eye contact. Many have sensory issues which means loud sounds, bright lights or unusual smells may be unbearable to them. They may rock, spin or flick their fingers, according to AutismSpeaks.
Having a child with autism can be stressful for parents. Here are some challenges parents of autistic children often face:

The first step in helping parents of autistic children is to educate yourself about the condition. One of the best sites to learn more about autism is AutismSpeaks Another helpful site is WebMd
A third useful site is the Centers For Disease Control

Don't Judge Other Parents


When you see a child having a tantrum inside a store or restaurant, don't stare. Don't criticize the parents. They feel bad enough without you adding to their pain. The parents are probably doing everything they can to calm their child but it's just not working.
Instead of criticizing, offer the parents some encouragement. Tell them you are sorry the child is having a bad day. Giving the parents an encouraging smile instead of a dirty look may help calm the situation.
Another situation in which people judge children with autism is when the autistic child engages in self-stimulatory behavior. An autistic child may rock, spin around the room or flick their fingers over and over. Some children will line up their toys in straight lines over and over or stack cans obsessively.
This kind of behavior bothers a lot of people. They may stare, criticize the child or demand the child stop it. In most cases, the child can't help what he or she is doing. So why not accept it? If the child is rocking, let him rock. As long as he or she is not hurting themselves or others, why not just let the child be?

Offer to Help

Too many parents act as if a family in their school or neighborhood who has an autistic child has the plague. They don't let their children play with "those kids." They ignore the parents and even go out of their way to avoid them. They may not realize how hurtful their actions are to the parents and their children who have autism.
However, nobody can "catch autism." People are born with autism. They can't catch it from somebody else as if it were a cold.
Don't be afraid to reach out to a family with an autistic child. Maybe you can babysit for them or run some errands to give the parents a much needed break in caring for their child. Having a child with autism can be rewarding but it can also be stressful and demanding.
Don't be afraid to arrange a play date between your child and an autistic child. Keep it short but structured. Have the children play a game, shoot hoops or color together. The autistic child will benefit from learning how to play and socialize with other children. Your child will learn a lesson in tolerance and compassion. You may become friends with the other parent. Everybody comes out a winner.

Here are some more articles I've written about autism:
Myths About Autism

Helping Children With Asperger Syndrome

How to talk to autistic children

Attribution


This article used some information from the Centers For Disease Control
WebMd
Autism Speaks
The video came from YouTube.
The photos came from Morguefile.
This article was rewritten from one I originally published on Yahoo Voices.

Tags

Autism, Autism In Children, Autistic, Autistic Children, Parent, Parenting Advice, Parenting Tips, Parents

Meet the author

author avatar Connie McKinney
I enjoy exercising, pets, and volunteering as well as writing about these topics and others.

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Comments

author avatar cnwriter..carolina
26th Feb 2014 (#)

so very interesting this Connie but also good and valuable advice...sharing..

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author avatar Connie McKinney
26th Feb 2014 (#)

Thanks so much, Carolina. I hope it helps people.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
26th Feb 2014 (#)

Good afternoon, Connie. This, combined with all your other articles on autism has been helpful to me in understanding. You have done an excellent job on all of them. I have a friend with an autistic grandchild. The parents and child recently moved to be closer to her, however, she felt so inadequate. Her granddaughter became so upset at her house without her parents, nor was she all right when her parents left and my friend babysat. Yet, everyone needed a break. My friend did exactly what you suggested. She did the grocery and personal shopping. Each time she made her deliveries, she would stay a little longer. Her granddaughter is getting more comfortable around her. Mom and Dad appreciate that they do not have to go out and be judged by complete strangers with no understanding. ~Marilyn Sharing

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
26th Feb 2014 (#)

Actually those numbers (1 in 88) are very high, I am sure some kids are not diagnosed and some parents may be in denial.

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author avatar Connie McKinney
27th Feb 2014 (#)

Mark, yes, lots of parents are in denial about this. It's too bad because the kids don't get the help they need. Facing a problem is the first step in trying to either solve it or cope with it.

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author avatar Connie McKinney
27th Feb 2014 (#)

Thanks so much for your kind comments, Marilyn. I'm glad things are settling down for your friend and her autistic grandchild. She is taking it slow and letting the little girl get used to her. It's a smart approach and one that seems to be working well.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
27th Feb 2014 (#)

Only thing I might add to this article is not to be offended if you offer assistance but are refused. It can be difficult for a parent to know what has triggered an episode, and trying to calm a child sometimes means getting everyone else out of the way. There's nothing personal when that happens. I think the rest is spot on...

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author avatar Stella Mitchell
27th Feb 2014 (#)

I don't want to sound patronizing here Connie ... but I do say , keep up the good work , and I am sure that you and your child will reap a happy reward one day .
god bless you and your family
Stella ><

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
27th Feb 2014 (#)

It is indeed tough for the parents, sometimes, even with a normal child. They need the understanding of society for children with special needs and not looked down upon. Society can be unfeeling and uncaring at times. Thanks Connie for a well written post - siva

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author avatar Connie McKinney
27th Feb 2014 (#)

Phyl, I think your advice is excellent. I agree. The parents may well refuse help because they are in such a tough spot.

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author avatar Connie McKinney
27th Feb 2014 (#)

Thank you, Stella, for your kind words and unflagging support. Much appreciated.

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author avatar Connie McKinney
27th Feb 2014 (#)

Siva, thanks for your support and for your wise words, as usual. I could not agree more with what you said.

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author avatar Mariah
28th Feb 2014 (#)

Very good points addressed in your article Connie, particularly on judging other parents by their kids behavior in public places, we can all be guilty of thinking that parents are too lax when there's a temper tantrum in the supermarket, but as you highlight, some of these kids may very well suffer from this
condition or similar, and we should be more receptive to that possibility.
Well done on your related articles, they are truly compassionate and really help to expand knowledge of this condition.

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author avatar Connie McKinney
28th Feb 2014 (#)

Thanks so much, Mariah, for your comments and support. I hope that I am spreading awareness and knowledge of autism through my articles. I'm always glad to help people if I can.

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author avatar Delicia Powers
28th Feb 2014 (#)

Connie wonderfully insightful, deeply caring, helpful article... as always your hallmark well said and done-thank you.

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author avatar Connie McKinney
28th Feb 2014 (#)

Thanks so much, Delicia.

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
4th Mar 2014 (#)

You have to be supportive , encouraging and in solidarity with those parents, becuase you dont know their stress. Nice post Connie!

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author avatar Connie McKinney
4th Mar 2014 (#)

Well said, Fern. Thanks so much.

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author avatar Kingwell
11th Mar 2014 (#)

You are so right that everyone can come out a winner. Bless you for sharing this and the links. We all have much to learn.

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author avatar Connie McKinney
11th Mar 2014 (#)

Thanks so much, Kingwell. We should try to help parents of autistic children as uch as we can.

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author avatar Bex8814
19th Mar 2014 (#)

My son's recently been diagnosed as Autistic (he has Aspergers Syndrome) your article is a great read, I wish everyone shared your understanding

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author avatar Connie McKinney
19th Mar 2014 (#)

Thanks so much for commenting, Bex8814. I, too, wish people were more understanding. Take care.

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author avatar peachpurple
12th Jun 2014 (#)

great advice for parents

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