More people than ever have a working knowledge and understanding of Autism, but it’s still a difficult condition to explain. While we may have more understanding of Autism and some of its developmental or intellectual effects, there is still a lot for researchers to learn. Perhaps one of the most difficult things to do for parents and caregivers is to explain autism to family and friends. Often times people have preconceived notions or dated biases that they have carried for many years that make it difficult for them to build a proper understanding of your child. Sometimes people will also reject a diagnosis of autism or call it an overreaction. Whatever the case, there are many resources you can seek out to help you explain autism to your family and friends so everyone is on the same page.
Start With The Facts
No matter who you are and how prepared you are for a diagnosis of autism, there is a whole wave of emotions that can overwhelm you when you first hear your child has autism. Remember that as you explain autism and your loved one’s diagnosis to family members. While most families will come to view their loved one with ASD as a gift, there is an initial phase of surprise, sadness and even rejection that everyone will have to get past.
To make it easier to explain autism and your child, perhaps the best way to go about the process is to start with the facts. Make sure the family understands what the doctors have said and confirmed to establish that medical authority. Explain autism and what it means as a condition. Try to give a general overview of behaviors that people with autism exhibit and the sensory overload that many people are susceptible to experiencing. Then explain autism as a spectrum disorder and what that means in relation to your child. Overall, a very logical explanation and approach on your part will help your loved ones to understand as you explain autism, even if they are emotional about the diagnosis.
Focus On Being Supportive
Support is important on two very different fronts. On your part, you must remember that your extended families and friends are not in direct contact daily with someone with ASD, so it might take them some time to adjust or they might not always say or do the right thing. As long as they are making an effort, it’s important to show your support for their efforts. You don’t have to allow them to act inappropriately by any means just to save face, but you will find that many people have good intentions and just need a little bit of support and loving correction.
On the part of your loved ones, make sure that you explain autism caregiving and your need for support. You will need the people closest to you more than ever and their support will go a long way. Don’t be afraid to let people in that want to help, whether it’s watching the little ones to give you a break, making a meal once in a while or even a weekly phone call just to chat. A support system is vital to you and it’s also super important to the growth of your child. Family systems help kids formulate and practice social interactions and play skills. Supportive families and friends have an important role in the lives of kids with autism.
Formulate A Sense Of Community And Pride
Don’t be ashamed of your child’s diagnosis and encourage your loved ones to adopt the same attitude. No one should be treated differently because they received a diagnosis they couldn’t help and family or friends can help normalize autism and improve the treatment or understanding of loved ones by forming communities around them. Attending events put on by organizations like Autism Speaks in your community, such as the Autism Speaks Walk is a great way to help bolster the autism community and explain autism to more people. Extended family and friends can also help by organizing their own support groups in their own communities. Forming a benefit, organizing a luncheon, hosting an event, or organizing to support Autism awareness is beneficial to you and your family. Getting involved can support efforts to help even more people understand autism, support continued research, and build more camaraderie with those you love.
What To Do If They Won’t Listen
Unfortunately, there are a lot of resources that exist for parents wondering what to do if their family won’t listen when they explain autism and their child, which means it’s a pretty common occurrence for people to feel unsupported by their family. There are a number of reasons why people have a hard time supporting and you or why they overlook a diagnosis entirely:
- A Lack Of Understanding – For many people, this is the biggest reason why they don’t lend the greatest support or respond properly to people with autism. Their understanding is either misguided, based on some stereotype that is likely perpetuated by movies, or they don’t connect with the fact that autism is a spectrum disorder and all people on it are different. Luckily, this lack of understanding is easily dispelled with simple education.
- Generational Misunderstandings – Unfortunately there are many people that don’t understand autism because of generational conceptions they are unwilling to change. Schools and society treated people with autism very differently even just 30 years ago, so many people have no context for understanding and some are sadly already set in their ways. For now, it seems that this problem will only be solved as new generations are even more informed about autism.
- Fear And Embarrassment – Sadly there are going to be some people that consider ASD a “bad thing” no matter how you explain autism to them. They don’t want the stigma of association with a child that has autism. This type of thinking isn’t something that you should have to correct, but don’t be afraid to be an advocate for people with autism. The only way to get rid of these societal stigmas is through education and exposure.
No matter that their reason for choosing not to understand and support you when you explain autism and its effects on your family, how you you respond to these people in your support system depends entirely on your patience and their willingness to change. No matter how severe or misguided their lack of understanding is, it will definitely take your patience to explain autism to them and how they can be there for your family. An abundance of research and a steadfast attitude are absolutely necessary too. Be understanding, but also hold your ground. If they are completely closed off to the discussion or hostile to the idea of changing their understanding to support you and your child, there is little you can do to make positive changes in them. However, don’t use it as an excuse not to be positive for you and your loved ones.
Don’t Be Afraid To Get Or Seek Support
A problem for many parents with loved ones that have autism, particularly if they have had a difficult time trying to explain autism and their child, is that they find it hard to seek support. After all, if the people that are supposed to support you the most have difficulty understanding you and your family, who can you turn to? In that case, you need the support of an organization like Lexington Services. We have helped hundreds of families across Arizona to get support for their loved ones, connecting them with quality services and even education options meant specifically for people with autism. You are not alone in this. Contact our support staff today by calling 480-900-1009.
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