April is National Autism Awareness Month.
Some would say awareness is great and all but there isn’t anything the average person can do about it.
I beg to differ.
If you have a loved one with any special needs this advice isn’t new to you. However, you may want to share these tips with more than a few well-meaning people you know. One person can make a difference…
If you can’t say anything nice, etc., etc.
Comments like “I don’t understand why that kid is crying,” or “they need to do something with that kid,” are unnecessary and can be very hurtful. Your casual observation about a situation “you know nothing about” can be the salt in a wound of someone barely holding on. Your off the cuff remark while standing in line at the grocery store cuts to the core.
Instead, offer a smile or a nod that indicates it’s not the end of the world instead of frowning in disapproval. That gesture can mean the world to someone who wants that meltdown to end more than you do. Even better, allow that person to check out ahead of you so the parent can tend to that child.
Money is good but time is priceless.
Offer to babysit for that parent, especially that single parent who has no one to help them. There is no need to panic fearing they will leave you helpless with their child. An offer of a couple of hours during nap time or in the evening can provide that parent (or grandparent) time to think, get a coffee or effortlessly run to the store. These are things most of us easily do and take for granted.
Everything doesn’t work for everybody. I’ve yet to meet many parents who have left any stone unturned trying to find the best therapy for their child. Most parents are already under a lot of stress. A special needs child can amplify that. Don’t suggest the parent isn’t doing all he or she can possibly do.
Random acts of kindness are always appreciated.
A call or a text can do wonders for someone who may very well feel isolated and alone. A gift card for dinner or a coffee are good too. Something small to you can be the greatest blessing. If in doubt, ask God what you can do. I’m quite confident you will receive an answer!
Instead of worrying that a child may disrupt your plans for the “perfect”birthday party, think about how inviting that child can be a blessing.
A lot of kids with neurological disorders get left out because parents just don’t know what to expect. I’ve found kids tend to be a lot more accepting than adults.
I challenge you to ask.
Simply asking if a child might enjoy attending lets that family know you are thinking of them. Even if the child can’t attend, the parents will appreciate the gesture. I’ve watched firsthand how one child feels as his sibling go off with other kids.
Hardly a comprehensive list, but at least a few points to think about.
I’ve learned a lot on this journey with autism.
I used to be that lady standing in the grocery line wondering “why is that kid screaming?”
And for that I am very grateful.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:5 NKJV