Every child lives in community. In fact, it’s a sign that something is wrong if a person is not making connections with the people around them. And in a healthy community, we all work together to support and encourage one another to live harmoniously with the people around us.
Collaborate Between Professionals and Family Members
If you are a professional, there is no better resource to help you understand a child than the child’s family. Family members can explain a great deal about what autism means for their child.
If you are a family member, draw upon the expertise of the professionals who are there to support you. They have the benefit of having met and worked with many individuals with similar needs to your child. Sometimes, it can be overwhelming to have too many differing voices offering input; try to single out the ones who seem to understand your child and offer the advice that fits your family best, while also considering whether different perspectives help you see something you were missing.
Engage with the School Community
Students with autism can and should be supported by all members of the school community. Every member of the school community can be considered a potential supportive partner – a secretary, librarian, volunteer, custodian. Relationships can bloom with anyone, and a solid relationship with an adult can make an enormous difference to help a child feel belonging and value.
Students can also be great supports for each other. Sometimes students understand and see things that adults do not. Relationships with peers can be supported in school by purposeful education of all students on the value of diversity, and by teaching students the best ways to engage and communicate with a child who has autism. At home, parents can invite friendly classmates over for a play date. One parent made a practice of having small parties through the year , encouraging the building of friendships among her children and a group of students who had similar interests and experiences.
It Takes a Village…
Faith communities, extended family, support groups, friends and neighbors are all potential sources of support, and places where you may find people with experience and wisdom to offer, or a willingness to build a relationship with your child.
Learn From the Autism Community
There are ever-increasing resources in book form and on the internet, sharing the experiences of families and most importantly, people with autism sharing their own perspectives. The experiences and ideas of others in similar situations provide a wealth of information to help us understand and support the growth of the people with autism in our own lives. Visit our Autism Support Groups page to get into contact with an organization near you.