Want To Inform A Family Their Child Could Have Autism? These 5 Steps Will Guide You
I recently received an email from a babysitter who was concerned about a child she took care of.
The child had speech delay and engaged in head banging.
The babysitter told the parents the child had autistic features. They were unwilling to accept it and put it down to the child having severe tantrums.
The baby sitter was extremely concerned about their attitude and reached out for help.
I was touched by her goodness of her heart. Only somebody wanting to help genuinely would take the effort of doing an online search and reach out for help.
This incident reinforced my belief in goodness and humanity across the world.
You might be a teacher, a neighbour, a babysitter, a relative who suspects a child has autism and wants to help the family. But the family refuses to listen and brushes your concerns under the rug. You feel like shaking them up! You know the child can be helped. But they ignore your appeals and advice.
You desperately want to help, but just like the babysitter- you don’t know what else to do.
I get you. I’ve been on both sides. As a parent, I know how it feels. As a professional, I get to interact with parents all the time.
Here are a few steps you can take today.
1. Be kind.
The family is already plagued with stress with regards to their child. Feelings of self doubt and non acceptance are rampant at this time. The mother could be facing issues at home, with her in laws. Or she could be afraid- just as I was when we suspected Mohit had autism.
2. Comfort rather than complain
Remember parents are extremely sensitive- especially if they’re suspecting autism. Reach out to comfort them. If you say, ‘Oh your child drops things all the time, he’s hyperactive.’- that comes across as a complaint. But if you say, ‘ I understand how tired you must be. I can spend some time with your child to give you a break.
Or, ‘Here are some activity suggestions you could use with your child.’
That has a comforting and accepting feel to it.
3. Offer to get them in touch with a specialist or experienced parent
A mother already knows her child is not talking appropriately, making inadequate eye contact or has behavior issues.
Let her know you could get her in touch with a specialist or another family who has been through it.
She will feel supported rather than challenged.
4. Share a video
Even after a diagnosis, parents may be uncertain and doubtful whether their child is really autistic.
In their heart of hearts, they wish the diagnosis is incorrect.
Initially, most parents put it down to the lack of attention they gave their
At this point, it hasn’t sunk in that autism is a neurological, bio psycho social condition. It cannot be caused by neglect.
Share this video link with them.
They will find it useful.
Looking at something visually, with a detailed explanation – as in the video above, is hugely effective.
5. Leave the door open for further communication
Be compassionate and leave judgments aside.
Remember the mother feels judged about her parenting skills and has tremendous self doubt at this point.
She may walk off in a huff. Don’t take it personally- it’s about her and not about you.
Let the parents know you’re there to support them if required.
They will reach out when they’re ready.
Dear Well Wisher, thank you for being you.
Your efforts and good intentions go unnoticed many times.
I know your heart is in the right place.
This article will help you to make your words and actions count too.