Tuesday, August 01, 2006

How to Support a Family with an Autistic Child

Parents of autistic children need the emotional support and advocacy of their extended families and communities. Having an autistic child can be enormously difficult and stressful. Whenever possible, offer a helping hand.

1. Be encouraging. When you visit, say positive things like "You are such a patient parent."

2. Offer to baby-sit. This means learning the family's routine and developing the skills necessary to care for an autistic child. Consistency is necessary to make the transition between parent and baby sitter an easier one.

3. Assume the role of advocate. Help the family find educational and respite resources in their area. Follow up with necessary paperwork and appointments, ensuring that the child receives whatever benefits he or she is entitled to. Bring additional resources to the family's attention.

4. Help with the mundane, everyday chores. Doing laundry and making meals can become stressful for a mother who is home all day, every day, with an autistic child.

5. Pay attention to the autistic child. Develop a relationship with her. Often, people outside the immediate family tend to ignore the autistic child because of his or her special needs.

For more information about how you can help a family cope with the challenges of raising an autistic child, call (800) 3AUTISM.

Tips from eHow Users:
Comments by Meghann Arnold

Don't say things like "God puts kids like this in situations like this to teach people" or "You must be such a special person to be able to cope with this". Parents of Autistic kids don't have the option of whether they can cope with it or not. They are parents, just like everyone else who has kids, and they go through the same feelings as other parents, so saying things that make it seem like they're different in some way to average parents just makes it even more obvious how isolated society has made them. Say things like "When Timmy was potty training, we had problems with this and this and this." It makes things look a little more in perspective. A parent is a parent, regardless of the child's situation, and they all love their children.

How to deal with an autistic adult by eHow Friend

Autism is not a childhood illness, it does not fade away. As a high functioning autistic adult -Asperger's Syndrome/ASHFA, with an autistic nephew, I find that I need all the help, support, and research materials I can find. But I am 28 and my nephew is 15 and a lot of what is out there is for children.

As to helping autistic adults, perhaps it is helpful to first understand that we never really socially mature but that does not mean that we are intellectually stunted. Many of us have normal or higher than normal IQs and so of us are even of genius level, despite our social failings. This can be misleading because if one of us functions as an architect, that does not mean that we can go out and shop for ourselves. But, this is nonetheless expected.

Relationships, be they familial, interpersonal, or intimate are especially difficult since many of the things most normal people take for granted such as saying "thank you", eye contact, physical boundaries, and so on are frequently foreign to us.

So, the best thing you can do is to become as familiar as possible with how autism manifests in both adults and children, and with how it affects each autistic as an individual. And there is a lot of variance from type to type, ranging from the popularized Rain Man symptoms of Kanner's autism to the far less extreme social awkwardness of ASHFA. I am a published writer, and my nephew is a computer technician, but I cannot leave my home unescorted and my nephew cannot ever be left alone.

The next best thing is to remember that we are not normal. No matter how well we cope, we do not see the world as others do. Be very patient with us, communicate in a clear and simple fashion, and above all know that although we are largely oblivious to body language and most other socio-cultural gestures we are not unfeeling.

Prompt treatment is also important as the sooner the individuals needs are recognized and met the better off their chances of functioning in society.

Some autistics will never advance, some will learn to cope, some will even excel but all depends on prompt recognition of their personal quirks and desires. So if you think you may be autistic, know you are autistic, or suspect that someone you know is so blessed (or cursed depending on your point of view), then learn all you can about the disorder and the person, seek professional help from someone who is trained to aid such individuals, and try to be as patient and supportive of us and our families as you can be.

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