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7 Ways to Support a Family of a Child With a Disability

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As I parent my daughter with autism, I can’t even count how many times people have told me how sorry they are that she has autism. I always wonder, “What are you sorry for? Did you take one of her toys or skip ahead of her in line?” Now those are things someone can be sorry for. But being sorry that my daughter is a unique and awesome person? I don’t understand that. Yes, our life isn’t like yours and it can be challenging at times, but that doesn’t mean you should feel bad for us.

I’ve also had people ask me how they can support us. Now that’s a question I can get on board with.

There are many ways you can support parents and children with disabilities. Here are some that come to mind:

1. When you hear someone use that awful R-word, please tell them they should never say that again and explain why that word is hurtful.

2. If you know that a parent had a rather excruciating meeting (ahem… IEP) send them a text, call them or stop by and let them vent for a little while.

3. If you know a parent has been seeking out a service for a long time and you know of someone who can help; ask them if you can connect them with said person.

4. On the same note, if you do have any good, sound advice (I am stressing good and sound here) on things that can be challenging, like sleep, trying new foods etc. it’s OK to share that if it comes up in conversation.

5. Celebrate the milestones your friend’s child is reaching. If my daughter has an awesome OT or speech session, there is tons of celebrating going on and it’s nice to share it with someone.

6. If you know that a parent has to make an important call or has tons of paperwork to do, offer to help take care of their child. (As long as everyone is comfortable with it.) Same goes for a trip to the store. Sometimes it can be difficult for a child to take a trip to the store. In our house, we never know how a trip to the store will go.

7. And the most important: get to know my child. It may take a while, but once you are part of her world, you may never want to leave. She will teach you more than you could ever teach her.

Just because your children do not have a disability does not mean your support doesn’t matter. You may not be able to totally relate, and that is OK. Just listening helps tremendously. Sometimes, we just want to vent. And don’t be scared to ask questions if you don’t understand all of the lingo. I myself don’t know all of the lingo, yet. There are so many things that I never thought I would have to encounter and had no clue even existed before my daughter was born. So it’s very understandable if you need to ask questions during a vent session. But above all, just support us. Any support you can offer is greatly appreciated. I promise to do the same for you. Support is a beautiful thing.

Getty image by Liderina

Originally published: April 16, 2018
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