Seven Ways to Help Special Needs Parents During Autism Awareness Month
Raising a child with a disability, while managing work and family responsibilities is no easy task for even the most dedicated parent. Taking care of all facets of a special needs child daily living – including school activities, therapy sessions, medical appointments and personal needs – can be extremely demanding.
“Autism Awareness Month is a wonderful time for family and friends to express their support for the parents of children with autism and special needs,” said Deanna Picon, founder of Your Autism Coach, LLC and author of The Autism Parents’ Guide to Reclaiming Your Life
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 68 U.S. children has an autism spectrum disorder. Behind these startling statistics are overwhelmed and unprepared parents, whose lives have been forever changed by an autism diagnosis.
“These parents are hidden heroes who bravely face autism and all the enormous challenges and huge responsibilities that accompany it on a daily basis. They may be your best friend, your cousin, your neighbor or co-worker,” says Picon. “Special needs parents deserve respect and recognition for many reasons, including the sheer guts it takes to stay dedicated to this challenge.”
Family and friends can apply these simple tips to make a huge difference in the lives of special needs parents:
• Give an unexpected break. Parenting is a 24/7, 365-day job for these parents, so any time they can get a few hours for themselves is great. Offer to watch their son or daughter at home or take him/her to a park or movie for a few hours. This will give parents the opportunity to participate in hobbies, events, and activities they enjoy.
And if you’re a family member or close friend, perhaps you can keep their child overnight or for a weekend. They’ll have “peace of mind” knowing their child is safe and well-cared for. Best of all, there are no childcare costs.
• Run an errand. Pick up some food and beverages at the supermarket when you shop or drop off a few letters at the post office. It’ll save parents much needed time and energy.
• Bring a dish. A pizza pie, a box of chicken or even a take-out meal from a local Chinese restaurant can make everyone feel good and valued. Little cupcakes are fun treats for desserts. Gift cards for a local restaurant can be a wonderful surprise.
• Assist with household chores. Vacuum a room, sort the laundry or cut up some lettuce and tomatoes for a salad. Remember, no gesture is too small and parents will always be grateful.
• Keep in touch and be supportive. Special needs parents often feel alone and isolated, so it’s really beneficial to let them know you’re there if they need you. With Mother’s and Father’s Day approaching soon, this is a perfect time to send a greeting card letting them know they’re great parents. Text, email or call to just say “Hello”.
• Listen without judgment. Bring over some snacks, sit down and just listen. Allow them to laugh, cry, vent and blow off some steam. No one expects you to solve their problems or provide solutions. A friendly face or shoulder to lean on works perfectly.
These kinds of simple but valuable good deeds don’t have to be limited to friends and family. Work colleagues can express their support as well:
• Treat them. Little gestures can bring a big smile to the special needs parent in your office. Buy a cup of coffee or tea with a donut or bagel and place it on their desk in the morning. What a great way to start their day! Take a co-worker out for a nice lunch.
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Your Autism Coach, LLC provides personalized guidance, comprehensive support programs and seminars that address the concerns of parents of special needs children. Now on Twitter (@yourautismcoach), look for the latest parenting tips and advice from Deanna Picon. She shows parents how to overcome the challenges of raising a child with special needs while building a rewarding life for themselves.