A tragedy! The mother of a 13 year old with severe autism attempted to kill herself and her daughter. We are quick to think “how could a mother ever do that?” However, I recall the saying “don’t judge until you walk a mile in her shoes.” I haven’t, so I don’t judge her.
Instead I suggest that we as a community and a nation need to assure that there are programs, resources and support so that tragedies such as this don’t occur. How do we guarantee that this happens? What are the steps we should take?
- Increase awareness of the challenges parents of children with special needs may experience.
- Offer informal supports (babysit, include the child in your family activity, plan a fun excursion with the child) to give the parent a break
- Contact your legislators on behalf of children and adults with special needs and their families to secure support and funding
- Be willing to be a member of a support team to assist the parent at IEP meetings.
- Help the parent find local resources, programs and support
If you are a parent struggling with challenges of your child with special needs, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Autism Speaks encourages caregivers to call the 24 hour hotline 1-800-273-TALK and has compiled a tool kit of resources that is available online.
It’s just as important to recognize that as a caregiver you must first take care of yourself. For some caregiver tips read my previous blog post.
Parents with children with special needs experience frustration, exhaustion and helplessness at some point but we must remember that we must always have hope. As a Catholic, I believe that God will only give us the challenges that we can handle.