Let us stop for a moment and appreciate parents who are challenged every day with the responsibilities that come with raising a special needs child.
Parents of children with developmental disabilities like autism, aspergers, and similar conditions, need to be on a constant vigil. They are sometimes never given a break for themselves throughout the course of the day, which can make forging friendships with them very difficult.
So, how can you befriend the parent of an autistic child? Are there things you can do to genuinely make that parent’s life better?
Yes. Yes, there are.
#1: Most of the time, it’s perfectly acceptable for you to just be there for them.
Parents of children with autism can be constantly tapped of their resources—emotionally, financially, and otherwise. This constant depletion means they may not have the time or energy to give to you, someone they’d love to be friends with, if they could.
Instead of viewing yourself as someone who might help them deal with their struggles, give yourself permission to just be there for them, and let that be enough. You might be surprised to see how much of a difference it makes for them.
#2: Put yourself in their shoes.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the vicarious stress that can come with befriending a parent of an autistic child, know that you’re only experiencing a sliver of what the parent him or herself has to manage on a daily basis. Maintaining a consistent empathy for what they’re dealing with will give you more tolerance in handling your own level of stress surrounding it.
Also, many parents of autistic children view their role as parents to be something of a journey. Many perspectives are that parenting a special needs son or daughter is as much about raising the child as it is about self-discovery for the mom or dad.
#3: Celebrate the little achievements.
Even as hard as life can be as the parent of an autistic child, there are always little wins. Things like school achievements, language goals being met, and other bright spots are all great occasions for celebration. Being a good friend means uplifting the parent in their times of struggle; that’s granted. But it also means standing beside them and cheering with them when things go well.
Integrate these three tips into your life, and we think you’ll find that your friendships will blossom in a natural, organic way.