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As an autism mom, I often hear advice that’s meant to be helpful or guiding in some form or another. As a mom of an individual with autism, I really hear a lot of ‘helpful’ advice, mostly from well meaning people. Sometimes, I genuinely do think that they’re trying to be helpful, and other times it’s all I can do to keep a straight face.

More often than not, I’d like to be able to say here’s how you can help. With that being said, I’d like to offer my own take on Ten Things That You Can Do for a Parent with a Child with Autism. And don’t forget to check out my autism resources and inspiration for more posts like this.

You may wonder what you can do to support a parent of an autistic child. Here are 10 ideas to get you started.

Ten Things That You Can Do to Help a Parent of a Child with Autism

  1. Compliment them. Be it on their parenting skills or the simple fact that they survived the morning or made it through the day in one piece, a kind word can go a long way.
  2. Be judgment free. I know that it’s so easy to pass judgment on people (and I’m plenty of guilty of this myself), but you never know when that child is having a temper tantrum or having a meltdown. It’s already hard enough for parent and child without the added judgment.
  3. Try to learn a little bit. I’m not suggesting that you should go out and read every book or article on autism spectrum disorder, but even reading a basic article will help in understanding what the parent might be going through.
  4. Volunteer at an event. Take a look and see if there’s anything going on locally (maybe at the school or someplace similar) where you can lend a hand.
  5. Offer to give the parent a break. Even if it means just a few minutes for the parent to have to themselves, try to help out in that way. Obviously, I know that heading into this world unprepared might be asking a lot and I wouldn’t suggest this unless you’re familiar with the family already.
  6. Be welcoming. If you have other children, encourage them to be friendly and accepting to the child. If you don’t have children, reach out to the parents and let them know that they’re welcomed and loved.
  7. Be a sounding board. For me, having this blog and being in a few Facebook groups is mostly sufficient enough when I need to vent. I also have support outside of this and that has been a huge help. You may not fully understand what a parent is saying to you, but just let them get that out. Of course, this should go both ways so that way one of you isn’t feeling entirely used.
  8. Ask how you can help. If you’re not sure how to help, simply ask. Keep in mind your own boundaries and your own personal comfort level.
  9. Donate to a charitable organization. Ask the family if there’s a particular charity that they endorse, and make a donation in the child’s or family’s name.
  10. Spread awareness. Encourage others to be aware and accepting of individuals with autism.

While some of these things may seem simple- that’s really all that a parent might need at any given moment. For me personally, just having someone who I could vent to that understood… or who would just listen? That made all the difference in the world some days.

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Digital Product Creator at Kori at Home
Kori is a late diagnosed autistic/ADHD mom. She is currently located in Albany, NY where she is raising a neurodiverse family. Her older daughter is non-speaking autistic (and also has ADHD and Anxiety) and her youngest daughter is HSP/Gifted. A blogger, podcaster, writer, product creator, and coach; Kori shares autism family life- the highs, lows, messy, and real. Kori brings her own life experiences as an autistic woman combined with her adventures in momming to bring you the day-to-day of her life at home. Kori is on a mission to empower moms of autistic children to make informed parenting decisions with confidence and conviction.

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9 years ago

This is really helpful. I used to be an office manager for a counseling group, and I can’t tell you how many times parents (or guardians) brought children in wanting them to be medicated for every little thing (even 2 and 3-year-olds that were “too hyper” <— no joke). I'm going to share this with a long-distance friend. She has an autistic son, and I'm sure she's heard many of these things before, too.

9 years ago

Get helps!
#5 on what not to say might be my fav 😉

9 years ago

There is such incredible content in your blog! I just CANNOT believe that people have said any of the above. Cannot believe it. And just so you know, the research on vaccines and autism has been widely and thoroughly disproven. You’re an amazing mom for being such an advocate for both your daughter and other parents and children who are effected by this disorder.

Tarynn Playle
9 years ago

How can anyone possibly think it is appropriate to say anything on your list?! Ridiculous! This is such a great post. Thank you for sharing!

Lux Ganzon
9 years ago

Practical ways that could mean the world to someone.
9 years ago

This is a good guide for building awareness. I particularly like #6: Be welcoming. As someone who runs integrated play dates, I am eternally grateful to those moms who cheerfully drop off their child for a one hour play date. I am sure it is not convenient for them but they understand that for the child with autism one hour is usually enough.

Sandra Watts
9 years ago

My son is 17 and is in the Autism Spectrum. I chose to medicate after much thought. He had a lot of “tics” and we were told he may be borderline Tourettes as well. His “tics” were so bad at times it was hard for him to do anything else. The medication has pretty much eliminated the “tics” and he has since made huge improvements. My personal pet peeve is that people automatically think that he is mentally “retarded”, I realize that is not the appropriate word any more but it is often used regardless.He is in no way lacking… Read more »

Theresa (Capri + 3)
9 years ago

The list of things not to say and do is cringe-worthy. The sad part is, I’m sure most parents of children with autism have probably heard a large percentage of those statements. As a parent of multiples, we hear a lot of nice things from people but occasionally get the cringe-worthy statements such as, “Better you than me” or “I’d commit suicide.” I like your list of helpful things people can say and do.

9 years ago

LOVE it, Kori. I actually laughed out loud at #5 (in list 2). Awesome! These are perfect lists, and I’m sharing this!

9 years ago

Good list! There was only one thing I would add. People who step in when you are correcting your child. “Oh he’s fine” or “he didn’t mean it” or “what was he doing wrong?”

Believe me, if I am correct in June, is because he is engaging in the behavior that he should not be. Many times, it involves his personal safety. He is not a typical child so I need to point out what he did wrong and that he understands what he did.

9 years ago

Thank you for this post. My boss and long time friend has an autistic son. Most of the time, when she talks about him, I just sit and listen.
I’m glad to read your list and the comments inorder to educate myself on what’s inappropriate and what is helpful to her family.
Thank you again.

9 years ago

Thank you for that, very informative. I personally have not had any experience with autism and would hate to do or say anything out of ignorance. Not that I would have been quite so bold to say anything on your list of things not to say. Good to read and hear about others experiences, you never know when you need to call on that information, or just to have a bit of empathy for their path.

Nancy Mitchell
8 years ago

I love your list, Kori. As the mother of a son with autism, I wish everyone — friends and strangers — would read it. I think number 1 — give a compliment — would mean the most to me as most folks are all-too-ready to give advice or pass judgement, not to say something positive. Before I had kids, I was the own who looked at parents with their misbehaving children and thought how I’d handle the situation SO much better. Now, I’m just the opposite — standing there feeling empathetic, knowing I don’t have all the facts and knowing… Read more »