A Family Affair: Teaching Your Family How to Understand and Help Your Autistic Child

Autism requires a support system- there’s no two ways about it. As a parent of a child with the fastest-growing developmental disability in the US, you need people you can rely on- to care for your children and be there for you. You’re researching and strategizing the best care for your child, but it’s important to include family members in your journey so you don’t feel alone. Ultimately, your child will benefit from your commitment to educate your family.

Invite family members to school meetings

Ask family members to tag along to school meetings so they can understand the challenges your child faces and the strategies you and her teachers are using to support her. This makes your family feel like a true part of the team and gives them the opportunity to ask questions. Bring one family member at a time or invite the family members who interact with your child most often. For example, if Grandma babysits after school every day, it would be best to bring her along versus Uncle Joe who sees your family only on holidays.

Ask for help… and be specific

I’ve heard many relatives say “I’d love to help, I’m just not sure what to do.” Sit down with individual family members and give them specifics about what would help you and your child. For example, “I would love to go grocery shopping every Tuesday afternoon. It would be so helpful if you could stay with the kids during that time.” Review the schedule you would like your relative to follow while you’re out, strategies for transitioning your child through the schedule, and positive reinforcement she can provide. Making the same family member part of your  weekly routine will help your child feel comfortable and will give you peace of mind when you leave. If you need an extra pair of hands while you go grocery shopping, give your relative specifics on how they can be supportive while out in the community. The more strategies your relative has, the more confident she feels in providing support.

Provide resources

Get brochures, websites, and books so family members can digest facts and information on their own time. A diagnosis of Autism brings along an incredible amount of information and your relatives will want to do some reading on their own.  Your family members may want to share treatments they researched so thank them for their time, even if you don’t agree with the approach they suggest.

Take action

Join a support group, participate in a fundraiser, or get involved in school events to move forward in a positive direction. Being active in the Autism community will give you and your family an extended support system and will keep you motivated to handle anything that comes your way!