Be Aware – For Families and Friends

by Tim on April 2, 2010

[This is Part II of today’s three-part series, along with Be Aware – For Parents and Be Aware – For Everyone, for World Autism Awareness Day.]

Be aware that you don’t need to tell us that everything will be OK; just tell us that you’ll be there for us.

Be aware that being a supportive family member or friend will mean doing a lot. You have to read and listen and work at learning and gaining experience.

Be aware that we do the research, the work, and the living it all day every day; we know the effort it requires, and honestly it will be impossible for you to compete with that. That’s OK; no one expects you to. Be aware that it’s not how much you absorb but how much you want to help and support us that matters most.

Be aware that we are thankful beyond words for all that you do for us.

Be aware that we often feel wounded by many kinds of criticism. Treat our perspectives and feelings with respect and seek to work as partners with us.

Be aware that your logic and sense of how our kids should do things don’t apply here. Our kids experience the world differently, sometimes so much so that it’s like trying to communicate in completely different, exotic languages. Be aware that there are no shortcuts to figuring things out.

Be aware that we probably don’t seem like the same people we used to be, but don’t overanalyze this. Accept us as we are, and let’s move forward to overcome the challenges and rejoice in the gifts.

Be aware that all the energy we focus on our kids and our daily lives may mean that what you think is important doesn’t register with us. It’s not personal; these are just the limitations of who we are.

Be aware that we don’t need anyone’s pity. Be aware that what we do need are advocates, cheerleaders, and teammates, and that our kids need all the support they can get to grow and learn.

Be aware that many times the most supportive response is to just be quiet and let us talk it out.

Be aware that the journey we are on is often far different from the lives of other parents. Be aware that our children develop in their own way in their own time. And be aware that when you try to compare our kids with your neighbors’ kids or other relatives or us with other parents, it gets infuriating – fast.

Be aware that unless someone has a special needs child, they can’t really have any idea what we’re going through. That’s OK because no one expects them to. Be aware that it only becomes a big problem when people act like they know.

Be aware that what you read or hear in the media about autism is about .001% of what the complete reality is, and sometimes what they tell you is either distorted or plain wrong.

Be aware that if you even think of ever criticizing the state of our house, your next action better be to leave a couple dozen donuts and a couple of pounds of top notch coffee beans at our door.

Be aware that holidays, family events, and most anything remotely public or social can be very hard on us. It’s like planning an expedition or a military campaign every time we leave the house. But also be aware that we want to have social and family time – believe me – and we do wish it were easier.

Be aware that we do not need additional drama in our lives. We have very limited, if any, reserves of energy. Usually these are depleted before 9am. Don’t contribute to our stress.

Be aware that sometimes we fire first and engage in diplomacy later. We are tired, stressed, exhausted, afraid, confused, angry, etc. Much of the time, we just can’t manage those situations as well as we’d like.

Be aware that our primary allegiance is with our children, and no one can compete with that.

Be aware that our children are even more awesome than you can imagine.

And be aware that I still wouldn’t trade my life for anything.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kristi November 27, 2011 at 7:19 pm

I am typing this comment again here, because I originally put it under the wrong piece (though the other is awesome too)!!
I am a mommy blogger, and it is so rare that I come across a piece of writing that is so profound in nature that it literally leaves me without words to describe it properly. I won’t do it justice, but let me just say that this blog post is the best one I have come across that offers enlightenment and advice to friends and loved ones of families with Autistic children.

The tears fill my eyes quicker than you can say “autism” and I can’t stop reading it for all the truth and phrasing that I wish I had been able to communicate as effortlessly as this man did. I want to plaster this on the walls of the world so that everyone reads it and understands what we, the families, are like, what we go through, and what we desire from our loved ones.

Thank you; I have passed the link on through my blog and to my friends and family in the hopes that others will be reached by this wonderful piece.

Kristi Z.

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