By Ann Palmer, author of A Friend’s and Relative’s Guide to Supporting the Family with Autism.

This list of top tips* is primarily for the extended family members and friends who want to understand and help the family living with ASD. However, it is also for parents of children with ASD. Each tip includes suggestions for parents to help them build good supportive relationships with their family members and friends:

Listen: Control the urge to always try to make the parents feel better. Allow them the opportunity to complain sometimes. Be that “safe person” they can talk to.

Learn: Learn how to interact with your loved one with ASD. Find out what they like and dislike. Ask the parents what strategies are helpful in interacting with the child.

Empathize: Try to understand the day-to-day life of the family and the child. When you understand more about living with ASD, you will know what kinds of support the family needs.

Reach out: Understand that the need for support is long term and not just when the child is young.

Be flexible: Accept that some family traditions or routines may need to be adjusted to facilitate including the family living with ASD.

Forgive: When feelings are hurt, talk about it openly and honestly and don’t let too much time go by. Apologize or forgive. Your relationship is too important to lose.

For more advice on how you can help your ASD family and friends, read an interview with Ann Palmer or pick up her new guide, A Friend’s and Relative’s Guide to Supporting the Family with Autism.

*Adapted from chapter 7: Top Ten Tips for Family Members and Friends

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

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