I’ve got a friend at work who has a brilliant career, a beautiful family, and she’s always happy. Since we’re more casual acquaintances with a common love for couponing, I never knew her middle child was autistic. Only after seeing her and the child in the grocery store couponing, did she begin to share the emotional and financial challenges of raising an autistic child.
April is National Autism Awareness Month. According to the Autism Society, more than 3.5 million Americans live with a disorder within the autism spectrum. Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States, and chances are that you and your children know at least one child with autism. Use these six helpful tips so that you can support your friends and family dealing with autism!
1. Free online autism education
If you’re like me and you’re unprepared to even have an intelligent discussion about what autism is, then take advantage of this free educational course. Understanding what your friends or family deal with daily with an autistic child will allow you to identify ways you can assist the child and family.
2. Run errands for the parents
Stimulation is abundant in the grocery store due to the lights, noise, and tons of people. Offering to do errands or shop for the parents will allow them the opportunity to limit the sensory stimulation. Offer to make a post office run to help the parent avoid having to get the child in and out of the car. Introduce the parents to any stores in your community that offer online shopping, or consider showing them the benefits of Amazon Prime Pantry or the new delivery service (that doubles your coupons!) called Peapod.
3. Go to sensory friendly movies
AMC Theatres offer sensory friendly movies featuring lights up, sound turned down and a free-style theater, which means the audience members can get up, dance, walk, sing, or shout. This is an awesome way for families with autistic kids to have a stress-free entertainment experience while allowing their child to flourish in this sensory friendly environment.
4. Lend a voice to the autism cause
Because autistic children require more attention, the parents may not have the time to devote to autism activism. If you’re a leader, volunteer to coordinate a fundraiser for special items the child may need, such as an iPad to communicate, or special outside play equipment. Offer to write letters to your congressmen to support legislation to fund autism research. Check with your local autism society to see if iPads are available to borrow (like you would with books from a library).
5. Find additional coupons for the family
My household has limited distractions so I have plenty of time to cut and print coupons—a family with an autistic family member might not have the opportunity to clip coupons—so help them out! Find out what coupons would benefit the family.
Autistic children may take longer to potty train or require specific foods. Take advantage of the coupons you can find for diapers and wipes. If the child likes a particular type of food such as peanut butter, take advantage of stock-up prices paired with coupons on peanut butter.
6. Teach your children that autistic children are just like them
I’m not the parent of a special needs child, but I have a special needs nephew, and I know his parents are committed 24/7. They want their child to be treated just like everyone else and to feel special. This article by Huffington Post puts this acceptance into words.
Another great resource is the Puzzle Piece Project Toolkit by Autism Speaks. Designed with grades K-12 students in mind, this interactive puzzle is a free download and will increase the students’ awareness during Autism Month.