This post is inspired by my reader Helen. I hope she doesn’t mind.
On my last post titled, I’m sorry, Helen commented,
“A great post but you missed an important component: What SHOULD someone say? If people say, “I’m sorry,” because they don’t know what else to say, could you help us folks who are trying to say the right thing?”
And, well, she has a point. A really, really great point.
No one is perfect and no one knows the perfect thing to say, definitely not I.
I have probably said one too many sorrys when my words and thoughts got tangled. I could have said a bunch of other quick, yet meaningful statements to express my empathy or care, but sorry is usually the easiest and totally I get that.
But, the key is no one ever tells you what to say. I don’t consider myself an expert of what not to say or what to say, so this is only my honest opinion. But these are just a couple things I think you can say or do when you find out a friend’s child has Autism:
1. “How can I help? Is there anything I can do?” If someone where to ask me that, which some friends have, I am always likely to return the favor. Raising a child with special needs can be challenging, as could raising any child, we could all use a little help once in a while. Most likely, if you offered, I wouldn’t take you up on it, but offering, is one of the biggest gestures, ever.
2. Don’t change! Once people hear the word Autism, they get scared. They change their view on the child and the parents. I have lost plenty of friends because they hear my children have Autism. Well, guess what? Nothing changes because someone’s child has Autism. The child you have known, is the same child you still know. A great thing to do is to still be a presence in your friends life, just like you were before you found out.
3. “How did you find out?” “What is their diagnosis?” I won’t go into a complete medical history, promise, but sometimes it’s just nice to talk about and asking may help with you understand the child and the challenges they may face. And just talking about our children may help you understand your friend better. So when you see her hair standing up in the playground and it appears that she is nervously talking to herself, you may better understand what is going on. And, no matter the child, disability or not, it takes a community.
4. “I think your kid is great!” Autism or not, “Emerson” is “Emerson” and “Steve” is “Steve”. They are just kids, like many others, trying to make it in this large world of playground fights, playdates, valentine’s exchange and making friends. So many people are telling you what is wrong with your child, or what your child could do better or work on, it’s nice to hear the positive things.
5. Say nothing. Some times there are no words that can express what you feel and putting what you feel into words is hard. I think the best thing to do is just to let your friend know you are there for them. Whether they want to vent, need help or just need a good laugh, sometimes saying nothing is the best thing.
I’m sure there are some I’ve missed and overlooked.
What support would you like to hear or receive from your friends?