Helping a Friend Affected by Autism

April is Autism Awareness Month. And with autism now affecting 1 in 97 boys, chances are you have a friend or family member with a child on the spectrum.

Autism Awareness Month

Helping a Friend Affected by Autism

Embrace a mother who needs to stay connected

Kim Stagliano

a mother and her sonApril is Autism Awareness Month. And with autism now affecting 1 in 97 boys, chances are you have a friend or family member with a child on the spectrum. Do you ever wonder, “Gee, how can I help?” but aren’t sure where to start? Oh ho! Let me help you!

Think about how wonderfully women mobilize to help when a friend has a baby or (heaven forbid) becomes gravely ill. Dinners show up at the door. Kids are invited over for play dates so Mom can rest. Now apply those acts of kindness to your friend with an autistic child.

Give your friend a gift certificate for a manicure or a massage and tell her you’re coming over to watch her child for two hours. Don’t timidly ask, “Would you like me to watch Janey?” She’ll turn you down, thinking it might be too much to ask. Tell her your time is part of the gift. Two hours in autism-time is like a week’s vacation, trust me.

And the manicure or massage will be a luxury most autism Moms forego to pay for the incredible expenses of autism and/or simply because time is at a premium.

Another great gift idea is a bookstore gift card. Two quiet hours with a new book and a cup of coffee in a bookstore would be sheer heaven!

If you’re nervous about watching her child (maybe you’ve seen some behaviors or don’t know quite what to expect) I suggest go to her house for the two hours, and leave your own children at home with Dad or with a friend. The child with autism is most comfortable at home, in familiar surroundings.

Heck, if you offered to come to my house? I’d flip on the TV for two hours or let my kids use the computer for two hours while you held down the fort. I’d make it easy for you to watch them, I’d be so grateful for the break.

And don’t forget the siblings of an autistic child – they need some TLC too. The stress in the household doesn’t pass them by. Invite the sister or brother to the movies or for a play date at your house. Mom will appreciate the gesture as much as the child.

Autism can make for a lonely life as you watch your friends’ children develop and grow while your own child struggles. By reaching out to your friend with a child on the spectrum, you can wrap your arms around a Mom who needs to stay connected.

You can turn mere awareness into action. I hope you will.

In addition to writing for Betty Confidential, Kim writes for The Huffington Post, is Managing Editor of Age of Autism, the nation’s first daily Web newspaper of the autism epidemic, and has own blog called Kim Stagliano. Kim also has multiple projects in progress with her literary agent in New York.

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0 thoughts on “Helping a Friend Affected by Autism

  1. Great ideas, Kim! Even if you can’t get someone to watch your kids/give you time alone, I find just having a friend come over to talk with me about normal “adult” things while the kids play, or meeting friends at the park is such a welcome relief some days.

  2. Kim, this is so right on. I agree with everything you said. It is better to just go and do it, and not ask. Shuffle the mom out the door, make it easy to go. Two hours would be such a luxury. And, yes, we can make it easy, like you said, by putting on a video, or the computer. We need breaks like this. I rarely get out to do anything. It’s a great article, all parents of children with autism need this offer of time.

  3. Awesome ideas, Kim. It always boggles the mind that grown adults seem almost afraid of children with autism.

    Turn awareness into action, indeed. Throw in a little tolerance, a little kindness, some respect… and we are REALLY getting somewhere, huh?


  4. Hi, Pixie and friends! Yes, the fear comes from not knowing if you can handle the child and I understand that. Spending time with our kids will foster understanding and even more action. And the key is really being pushy – bring out your inner New Yorker, your Steel Magnolia, your Texas Toughie – and just push that mom out the door. “GO! We’ll be fine!” Want a friend for LIFE? Tell hubby to make a reservation and show up on a Sat night so he can take his wife out for dinner. OMG – even I just fainted! 🙂 Thanks, everyone. KIM

  5. Great post as usual, Kim. My best friend of over 20 years has a son on the spectrum and she still feels bad asking me to watch him occasionally so I just tell her, I’m doing this! And you are so right about the siblings – they carry a lot on their shoulders and need a break now and then too.

  6. This is such a great idea. I have poured every last dollar and spare moment into helping my little guy. He’s progressed amazingly, but my partner and I are down to one pair of shoes each and haven’t purchased more than a couple of clearance sale Old Navy t-shirt since he was diagnosed. And stress? Thanks to prozac, we’re managing but some days are tougher than others and I would love for someone to help us out. Unfortunately, because of our situations, we don’t socialize much and the friends we do have also have ASD kids. So all of you…who have friends with an ASD child, help them. Don’t let them isolate themselves or drift away. They need you to stay in touch and go the extra mile.

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