I didn’t know anything about autism when my son, Norrin, was first diagnosed. Many friends and family didn’t understand either. They either dismissed my concerns or tried to assure me that Norrin was “just fine.”
Related: Autism: When Family Just Doesn’t Get It.
Autism is an invisible disability and it’s hard trying to make sense of something you can’t see.
For a long time time after Norrin’s autism diagnosis, I had a tough time trying to get my loved ones to understand – including my mother. Over the years my mom has learned to understand autism and become one of Norrin’s fiercest advocates.
Family plays a huge part in the life of a special needs child and their parents.
While there are some in my family who still don’t understand Norrin’s autism, there are many that do.
I learned that if I wanted my family to truly understand autism, they needed to be involved.
4 ways to help family & friends better understand your child:
Bring them to an IEP meeting. No one should have to attend an IEP alone. The IEP meeting is open to anyone who knows and loves your child. Invite a friend or family member – they don’t have to say anything or even be familiar with special education. They just have to be there next to you. Let them experience a moment in your special needs life.
Let them sit in on a therapy session. The next time your child has an therapy session, have your friend or family come over. They don’t have to participate or assist – they just have to observe. Let them see what your child is like, how hard they work and what they are capable of doing.
Invite them to an autism event. If your child has an event at school or participates in a sports team or special activity – invite family and friends. Let them see the spectrum of autism.
Be completely honest. As special needs parents, we celebrate every achievement. Every milestone matters and we want to brag about our kids. But if you want your family to really understand, you need to go beyond the highlight reel. You need to share the tough stuff too.