Become an Advocate

Advocating as a parent or caregiver

Parenting a child on the autism spectrum has its own unique rewards and challenges. If you feel overwhelmed, it is important to take care of yourself.

Every family will handle their stress differently, but the tips offered below are designed to help you on your journey.

How should I explain autism to our family and friends?

No two autistic children are alike, so discussing it can be complicated. Characteristics displayed by one child may be similar or different than those displayed by another child with the same diagnosis.

  • When explaining autism to someone, it may be helpful to discuss your child’s diagnosis in general, then provide specific examples.
  • Explain that children with autism have difficulties with social interactions, then talk about the behaviors your own child displays in social situations.
  • Be sure to talk about the strengths of your child and all the great things that make him or her unique.

Encourage sensitivity

The DC Office of Disability Rights (ODR) produced this short sensitivity training video, which illustrates respectful interactions with people with disabilities.

Watch the video

A family hugging and laughing on a couch

Get the support you need

Surround yourself with people that love you and educate them about your new adventure. Tell them how you are feeling and what you are thinking. Just having someone listening can make all of the difference. Also consider looking into support groups for yourself and others in your family.

A closeup of a hug

Ask for help

Your friends and family probably want to help but are not sure how to best approach you or what to offer. Don’t always wait for them to ask. Outline specific things you think you might need help with such as babysitting, cooking, laundry or getting some items from the store. Asking specific people for specific tasks will make it more predictable and less stressful for all who are involved.

A father playing blocks with his son

Spend time with each child

If you have more than one child, try to divide your time to make sure that your love and attention is equally shared.

A girl laying in bed with her feet up and holding a stuffed animal

Provide a private space for children

Create a safe place in your home for siblings to access whenever they need a break from the family or activities. Taking breaks will enable the sibling(s) to relieve some pressure, decrease stress, and remove him/herself from the behaviors of the autistic child.

Educate yourself

Knowledge is empowering; learn as much as you can about autism and how to help your child. There is so much information out there and so many places to find it.

You can start by

  1. Talking to other parents, your child’s school, or your family physician
  2. Looking on the internet, in books or magazines