"How do I help my friend whose child has been recently diagnosed with ASD?"

I had this question from a reader today. It is a pretty common question, so I thought I would give it a more thoughtful answer. She wrote:

"I was just wondering if you would be able to give me some advice about trying to help one of the mother's at school. Her son who is 3 years old has recently been diagnosed with Autism.

She is finding it hard where to go to get help. She is on the wait list for Early Intervention assistance... Also her family (including her husband) are still coming to terms with the fact that he "isn't" (as some people put it) normal and they act as if they are in denial about it all...

If you can give me any advice or ideas of where to go it would be greatly appreciated."

I answered:

It is very hard to know what to do with people who are struggling with their child's diagnosis. Because, quite honestly, most of the time, most people don't take advice. You may have lots of ideas and lots of things to do, but it is rare that anyone follows anyone else's advice. It is generally best when people take action because they have solved their own problems, or at least have done their own thinking.

Perhaps the best thing you could do is help her with her thinking if you have an opportunity. What I mean by that is asking questions like this:

How long have you been thinking about this?

  • How often do you think about this?
  • How important is this issue to you?
  • Is this in your top five priorities right now?
  • How committed to changing this issue are you?
  • What are your main insights about this issue up to now?
  • How confident are you that you have all the information you need right now?
  • What is the insight brewing at the back of your mind about this?

 Do a lot of listening. But try not to let her keep talking about the problems. You are trying to get her to talk about her thinking processes around it. And perhaps you need to ask her permission to ask these types of questions as well. If you can be a sounding board and help keep her focused on her thinking, she may well come up with her own ideas and then will have the energy to put them into practice.

If she is interested in talking about it further, it you could ask these kinds of questions:

  • Do you want to explore a few different ideas for how to move this forward?
  • How best could I help you from here?
  • In order to achieve X, what do you think you need? Where do you think you could get this from?
  • What specifically do you think you need to do at this point?

If she then seems open to ideas and suggestions, you could send her a copy of Love, Tears & Autism or send her some articles from the blog or the Facebook page. And don't forget to give her a hug. We all need it.