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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Autism Awareness Day

It's Autism Awareness Day, and I am thinking about how little awareness really does for anyone. It's great to be aware autism exists, but hey, I'm aware lots of things exist, and that doesn't do a bit of good to people dealing with them. Fire exists, cancer exists, poisonous snakes exist, floods exist....and so on. What I wish---there was a Help People Dealing with Autism Day. Here's some ideas....

1. Offer to watch a child with autism. It's not as hard as you think. Their parents do it almost every hour of the day. Yes, they might cry. Yes, they might show strange behaviors. Yes, it might not be all fun and games. But it might be---our kids can be a lot of fun sometimes. And even if it isn't, think about how much just a few hours of freedom means to the parents. It might save a marriage or save someone's sanity.

2. Really get to know a child with autism. If you are around them, and I'm talking here not babysitting, but with the parents around, sit down with them. Play with them. Don't do this trying to teach them things, or quizzing them to see if they know things. Follow THEIR lead. If they want to hear the same book 50 times, read it to them 50 times. You aren't their therapist or teacher---you can just be their friend.

3. Do something for the sibling of a child with autism. They, like the parents, live with autism all the time, but unlike the parents, they didn't choose to have the child. They love their siblings with all their might, but it's not an easy life for them either.

4. Ask a parents of an autistic child what supplies/books/materials/treats their child might really like. Little things can be so helpful---you don't have to spend much to get something that might be a huge treat for the child, if it's something they are really into.

5. Support public funds being spent on SUPPORT for autistic people---after school funds, recreational programs, housing for adults, respite care and much more.

6. Say something nice about the autistic child. Don't act like they are a tragedy. They aren't. Every parent likes to hear nice things about their kids.

7. Don't,don't, don't,don't, don't offer us information about a "cure". You are not telling us anything we haven't already thought about, and it's hurtful to many of us.

8. Be a friend to the parent---just a regular old friend. Nothing refreshes a parent like doing something fun with a friend.

9. Include the child in events like birthdays or other parties, but understand if the parent decides it won't work out. Most of us parents are very sensitive to how a child will really do at various events, and we will always appreciate the invitation, but we might not accept.

10. Don't assume our child will have special abilities, or that our child is a genius inside, or the child is slow, or anything about the child's abilities. Ask the parents if you are close with them. All kids have special abilities in their own way, but most children with autism are developmentally delayed. We parents know that. We can offer the best assessment of what our child is capable of.

11. If you see a child in public that you think is autistic, and they are having a meltdown, don't stare, or comment, or look disapproving. If there is a simple way you can help, you can try to, or you can just ignore the whole scene, or you can give the parent a sympathetic smile. We've all been there, even with our "normal" kids.

12. Know how any help at all is EXTREMELY appreciated by the parents. You can make a huge difference in their life by helping.

And if you got this far, thanks for caring enough to read this!

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