Monday, January 21, 2013

7 Tips for Being A Friend to a Special Needs Parent

Leigh Merryday is a school media specialist and autism parent blogger at She is married with two children - a typical five-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son on the autism spectrum. In her spare time, she vehemently denies being addicted to Facebook, reading, and peanut butter fudge. No one believes her.

being a friend

Three years ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy we named Callum. He was, and continues to be, a joy to us. But, shortly before he turned a year old, I began to notice the telltale signs of autism. We soon were thrown into the world of developmental therapies, specialists, and ESE. It was a frightening time of worry for his future and adjusting to a reality not quite like the one we had envisioned. And, though we adore him and wouldn't trade him for the world, his needs have certainly affected every part of our lives. One of the things I wouldn't have expected it to affect was my friendships. But it did. Some of the people I expected to be there weren't. And some people I never expected to be there were. Often, I have noticed a hesitation or awkwardness on the part of friends who just don't know what to say or do. I know they care. And I know they mean well. They are, quite simply, at a loss.

Here is what I would like to say to them and others like them, if they were to ask how to be a friend to a special-needs parent:

1. You will probably look up the child's condition online to learn more about it. That's awesome. But try to remember that no condition has identical characteristics. For example, many people are afraid of upsetting an autistic child by touching him. But my son is a complete snuggle-bug. He, like every other person on the planet, is an individual. By all means, ask us about our kids. Feel free to ask, "Hey, I've read some have issues with such-and-such. Does she?" I promise you, we're happy to talk about it. We need to talk about it. And, for a period of time, it may be all we talk about. Try not to resent that. We'll adjust. But we need a little time and a lot of patience.

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