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Today is national Autism awareness day. My family has been blessed with incredibly good health and I’ve never had to deal with a long-term illness or medical issue. I thank the Lord every day for this blessing in my life.
I’ve got friends who aren’t so lucky. I’ve got friends who have kids with cancer, autism, seizures, dyslexia and other learning disabilities. I see the struggles they go through on a day-to-day basis and admire their strength and fortitude so much.
I recently spoke with a good friend about her experiences with her autistic child. My goal was to understand her situation a little bit better and find some way of providing help and relief. I felt helpless and ashamed that I didn’t know how to be a better friend.
Her advice was surprising in its simplicity.
She just wanted people to care enough to ask. She just wanted someone to listen.
Yes, she appreciated the wonderful helping gestures that people made, but more than anything she was tired of feeling alone.
Her life revolved around her child and his needs. She and her husband had completely revamped their lifestyle, she had quit her job and was spending hours working with therapists, social workers, and doctors.
By the end of the day, she was completely drained.
I’ve had those days when I come home from work and am mentally fried. I just want to curl up in a ball and tell the world to stop bugging me. The difference is, that since it is work, I get to take a break, I get to reenergize and start fresh the next morning.
Raising a special needs child is unrelenting.
There is always another doctors appointment, a therapist to visit, research to do and problems to solve. The level of stress, hopelessness and loneliness must be so overwhelming at times.
I don’t have formal training and I know there is a limit to what I can do physically to help my friend.
What I have come to realize is when I take the time to really listen when she shares her thoughts, fears, and concerns I’m helping. I’ve also noticed that as I take the time to listen, I can hear the little-unspoken needs that took reading between the lines to find.
It is definitely still a work in process, but I hope that as I continue to listen to my friend she’ll feel more and more comfortable turning to me for help.
On this day in honor of Autism take a few minutes to reach out to someone you know who has a special needs child.
Don’t let fear of saying or doing the wrong thing stop you from reaching out. I can guarantee that they will appreciate the gesture.
If you are interested in reading some very special stories from mothers with autistic/special need children I’ve shared a few of my favorite below:
Photo Credit: Hepingting
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