Over the past few years, I have posted numerous posts about being in public with T-man when he started to display aggressive behaviors and self-injurious behaviors. From those post, I have received the same question from followers, "What is the best way to help?"
I have been told numerous times, " I want to help but I don't know what to do." or "What do I do if I come across a mom like you in public struggling with their child?"
I wanted to put together some ways that a person can help a struggling autism parent. If you are reading this and have no prior knowledge on autism, that is okay. You can still help!
I have been that single parent in public with T-man several times when he has started to go into a meltdown. Meltdowns can be displayed differently according to the individual. However, you are going to notice if the parent needs help because the child will be displaying any of the following
- On the ground kicking, hitting, screaming
- Standing while hitting, scratching, pinching their parent/caregiver
- Biting themselves or parent/caregiver
- Biting themselves
- Hitting, scratching, pinching themselves
- Destroying property around them
- Trying to Elope and the person with autism does not know danger (in many cases)
- Etc, etc, etc
So, what can you do if you see a parent struggling with these behaviors by themselves?
Walk up to the situation and just look at the parent or give them a slight wave to get their attention, and quietly say, I'm here to help." In some cases, you don't have to say a word, just give the parent/caregiver a look and they will know you will help.
Most of the time, just knowing another adult is there to help is a huge relief.
Don't do anything to the child until the parent tells you what to do. A lot of people with autism have certain triggers and you will not know what they are. So, please let the parent guide you on what to do.
What can I do to assist the parent/caregiver?
The parent/caregiver will tell you. In my case, most of the time I just needs someone to pick up my purse and personal belongings that I can't get while I am trying to keep him safe.
Sometimes the parent/caregiver will just need another adult to walk on the other side of the child to get them to their vehicle safely.
Sometimes the parent/caregiver just needs you to get something out of their bag that will help the child.
The parent/caregiver will let you know. I have been in a restaurant numerous times and T-man was asking for ketchup and I just needed someone to get it for me. Trust me, there may be something the parent/caregiver desperately needs to help that child, so just ask!
Sometimes we just need to know there will be another person to help run after the child/adult if they get away and start running away because most of the time, they won't know to look across the street, etc.
Maybe the parent/caregiver doesn't need anything. If they don't, they will let you know. Even if they say they are good, TRUST ME WHEN I SAY.....they really appreciate you asking and just not sitting back and watching the show.
I have been told before, "I feel bad when I see single parents in these situations but I have no experience with autism."
It's okay. I understand completely. However, by simply getting the parents attention and making sure you SUPPORT them and are not there just gawking at them will instantly make the situation better for the caregiver/parent.
There are no certain rules to always follow when you come across a situation involving a child or adult with autism. Each person requires and needs different things. Therefore, if you gather anything from this post, please let it be this......
Don't stare. Don't judge. Instead, get the parent/caregiver attention and let them know you are there to assist them with whatever they need.