As the rates of Autism continues to skyrocket, the likely hood of you knowing someone that is a special needs parent is growing as well.
Maybe you already know someone with a special needs child. Perhaps, a friend or family member.
In this article, I hope to give you some simple ways that you can help the special needs parent in your life. Knowing what to say or do can be daunting for someone that doesn’t have experience with special needs parenting.
This is probably where many people, with the best of intentions, get scared off. Seeing what a special needs parent goes through can be a very overwhelming experience for anyone.
It may even seem so dire that one might feel that they have nothing to offer, that could be of any benefit. I hope to change that by sharing a few very simple, very basic ideas, which can provide much-needed relief to a special needs parent and let them know that they aren’t alone.
So, you have a friend or loved one that is a special needs parent. Do you want to offer help or support but don’t know what you could do? First of all, let me thank you for showing compassion, concern, and love for the special needs parent in your life.
Honestly, to a special needs parent, just knowing that someone cares is really important. In fact, it’s so important, that I don’t think it can be overstated.
The first thing you should know is that typically, the special needs parent will never ask for help.
Often, they know how overwhelming their life and struggles can be, and they don’t want to burden anyone. Perhaps they don’t feel that anyone understands what they’re going through. Maybe they don’t have family they can rely on.
If they do ask you for help, then it’s truly needed.
One of the things the special needs parent does very well, aside from raising amazing but challenging children, is suffering in silence. They have become so dedicated to their child that they often lose themselves in the process. You might not even notice this because a special needs parent will rarely if ever complain about it.
The special needs parent typically struggle with stress, depression, anxiety, fear, isolation, exhaustion, finances and just about everything else.
If you have ever wanted to offer help to a special needs parent but maybe don’t know how this article is for you.
Perhaps their situation is so difficult; you don’t know how you could do to make a difference. Maybe you have no experience with special needs children, and that has you hesitant.
There are some things you can do to help even if they don’t seem like much.
One of the toughest parts of being a special needs parent is the feeling of isolation. Their child requires so much of their time, energy and undivided attention that they often have little or no adult contact (aside from doctors and therapists).
You could make plans to stop by for a visit. Many special needs parents will tell you that they would love just to talk to another adult. It’s important to keep in mind that a surprise visit could just add to the stress by destabilizing or overstimulating their child. Always call first and make sure it’s a good time.
Sometimes, by the end of the day, exhaustion is such that the thought of making dinner is simply too much. Perhaps you could also offer to bring dinner over so they have one less thing to worry about. It would be a very nice gesture and could help take some of the load off their shoulders.
Remember that their child may have special dietary or sensory needs, so it would be a good idea to do some research by calling and asking what would be a good meal to prepare for them.
Maybe cooking isn’t your thing. Sometimes something as simple as sending a card, email or text message can let them know you’re thinking about them. That simple gesture could help them find the strength to keep moving on a really bad day.
If you wanted, you could send them a gift card for groceries or maybe their favorite take-out. There is often a tremendous financial burden associated with special needs parenting and maybe a gift card will help them provide groceries for their family.
Think about making arrangements to go over and spend some time with their child (if that’s something you’re comfortable with).
Educating yourself about Autism of whatever else the parent is dealing with, is important when doing something like this. Not only will educating yourself help you relate to their child, but knowing that you took the time to learn about their child’s condition would mean a great deal to any special needs parent.
As their child likely requires an exhaustive amount of time, energy, and effort, things around the house and yard tend to take a back burner. You could help with lawn care or repairs to the house. Wash a sink load of dishes or fold the laundry.
The list of possibilities is endless really.
The most critical thing you will be doing is showing them that they are not alone. Sometimes just knowing that there are people who love and support them can mean more than you can imagine.
Please remember that you don’t have to understand anything about Autism to show love, compassion, and support to those touched by it.
Your post about how to help a special needs parent is great! As one, myself…I agree! You hit the nail right on the head. Will share this on my blog. 🙂
@Erin Marie McDowell Thanks so much. I really appreciate that 🙂