5 Ways to Support a Mom with a Child on the Autism Spectrum

5 Ways to Support a Mom with a Child on the Autism Spectrum

One mom shares what kinds of support she needs as she raises a child with autism.

By: Maria Mora

When my son, Simon, was diagnosed with autism four years ago, my friends and family weren’t sure how to react. Many people hear autism and panic. What they might not realize is that autism is a spectrum, encompassing a variety of diagnoses. No child with autism is the same, but all moms share the need for one simple thing -- support. If you want to support a mom of a child with autism, try these steps.

1. Ask questions. When I’m talking about Simon’s diagnosis, I tend to slip into the jargon that’s taken over my life. Eyes glaze over when I start talking PT and OT and SLP. Confused? Just ask. Moms don’t mind explaining the therapies, the behaviors, or the interesting medical terms.

2. Never say the child seems “fine.” I know you’re trying to help when you tell a friend that her child seems fine to you, but those words feel like salt in a wound to a parent who has fought for a diagnosis. My son has Asperger syndrome and doesn’t demonstrate behaviors that most people associate with autism, so many people tell me he seems fine. Instead of describing a child in terms that try to normalize him or erase his diagnosis, just be positive. “He’s so polite.” “She’s such a friendly kid.”

3. Be inclusive. If you really want to support a mom and her family, invite the child with autism over the same way you’d invite a neurotypical kid. Don’t exclude kids with autism from birthday parties, sporting events, or family gatherings. I know how to handle my child, and I’ll politely decline if invited to a situation that my son might not handle well.


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4. Don’t get your feelings hurt. This one goes along with being inclusive. When I bail on an invitation or don’t return a phone call, it isn’t personal. Chances are my son is having a bad day and I know that we’ll both end up sobbing if we try to interact with other human beings.

5. Give props. Doesn’t it feel nice to be told you’re doing a good job? Moms of kids with autism could really use that little pick-me-up. I’ve run into strangers openly judging me over one of my son’s public meltdowns. But one wonderful time, a mom took me aside in a parking lot outside the grocery store and simply said, “You’re a good mom.” I cried happy tears when I got in the car.

Anyone with an open heart and mind can become part of a mom’s much-needed support system.

What would you add to this list?

Maria Mora is a single mom, editor, and hockey fanatic. She lives with her two sons in Florida.

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