If you have a friend or loved one who has a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), you probably want to help. However, it can be hard to know where to start.
While every child who has autism is different, it can still be useful to understand the features of autism and how it may impact communication, behavior and relationships.
Keep these points in mind when supporting someone who has a child with autism:
- Each child with autism is a unique individual. Though they may share the same diagnosis, each child has his own strengths, areas of need, likes and dislikes. Don’t assume you know about a child just because he has an autism diagnosis. That is only a small part of who he is.
- If you have a child, teach your child to have compassion toward those with autism. Help your child understand autism by using children’s books and online videos. Encourage your child to be a friend, even though forming and maintaining relationships can be challenging for a child with autism.
- Offer a listening ear without judgment. Be available when your friend needs to vent or wants to share a success. Knowing she can come to you without being judged or receiving advice can be a relief.
- Ask how you can helpful. Parenting a child with autism can be exhausting. Any offers, no matter how small, will be truly appreciated. Offer to help with things like babysitting, meals or emotional support.
- Avoid sharing information about treatments and therapies that might help the child with autism. There are many controversial and expensive treatments available, but choosing treatments is up to the family. They should not have to defend their decision whether or not to select an intervention.
- If you have a child, host a playdate for your child and your friend’s child. Before the playdate, ask the parent about any particular likes and dislikes, favorite toys or activities to avoid. Limit the playdate to your children and the child with autism.
- Keep any information about the child and family confidential. Parents would prefer to share information about their child, his diagnosis and needs as they choose rather than having you or others talking about any issues the child or family is having.
Remember all children with autism and their families are different and have their own personal needs. Use this information as a starting point, but asking the family directly how you can help is a great way to start a conversation and provide much-needed support.
We recognize that every child is unique and that the content of this article may not work for everyone. This content is general information and is not specific medical advice. We hope these tips will serve as a jumping-off point for finding the best approach to helping a child with autism. Always consult with a doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about the health of a child. In case of an urgent concern or emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department right away. Some physicians and affiliated healthcare professionals on the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta team are independent providers and are not our employees.