How a family can support their autistic child

5 tips for the family to support their autistic child & their parents

With the upcoming holidays, we find ourselves surrounded by family and friends. Even if we don’t usually connect with them often throughout the year, the holiday season brings warmth and a sense of community that binds people together. If you have an autistic child in your extended family, this sudden influx of people can be challenging to them but also rewarding if handled correctly.

As a member of the child’s extended family, there are a lot of things you can do to support them and their parents and make the holidays an enjoyable time that they look forward to.

Educate yourself

We can handle almost anything in life if we have enough information about it. Educating yourself about autism, what it means and how it affects the child’s life can help you have a lot of empathy for them. It will help you know the basics you need to build a strong foundation for your relationship with the child and their parents.

Ask questions

Parents of autistic children do lots of research and educate themselves thoroughly to have the best possible understanding of their child’s condition. They know more than the general information and have a personalised experience with their child’s specific needs. Don’t be afraid to ask them any questions you have. As long as it comes from a genuine place, they will be more than willing and happy to answer

Invite them to get together

Social interaction with others is very important for autistic children. Still, their parents might be a little hesitant to take their children to social gatherings. Especially at the beginning of their journey. As a family member, you can help them break that wall by being inviting and making sure the environment you invite them into is inclusive and welcoming to their child.

Be a good listener

Parenting an autistic child comes with lots of challenges, from finding medical support if needed to different kinds of therapy to special schools to just dealing with day-to-day situations. Even though parents of autistic children, just like any other parents, would do anything for their child, they sometimes just need someone to listen to them. Be supportive and a good listener. Just being there for the parent can be a lot of help.

Offer help

Offering help can come in different ways depending on what you can do. You can offer to babysit their child for a night to give them some time to themselves. Or you can offer to arrange playdates with your children to help their autistic child build their social and communication skills while having fun. A great kind of help is also raising awareness about autism and educating other family members. All of this can make the autistic child and their parents feel more embraced by their community.

Everyone around the autistic child can offer their own kind of support and have a unique impact on their lives. It can be confusing in the beginning. But with time and effort, the whole family can learn to embrace the child and their parents and find the best ways to make sure they feel comfortable, supported and loved by everyone around them.

Here are some resources to start your autism education:

What is autism? – National Autistic Society

Sensory differences – National Autistic Society

Socialising and relationships – Family – National Autistic Society

Read about the importance of sibling relationships for autistic children

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