Bria Hayward has worked as a therapist with Autistic children for the past seven years. Bria offers these thoughts on the ways in which we can support families.
Children with a disability often feel frustrated when out in public. This can lead to disruptive behaviour. As their parents deal with this they need tolerant smiles, and room to do what they need to with their child. Comments on what is wrong with the child or how to handle their child better, do not help the situation.
• Positive reinforcement
Support the parents’ own efforts by affirming all the good things a child is doing. Affirm the parents, too, as well as other members of the family.
• Respite care
If you understand the disability, offer to take the child for an hour or two to give the parents a break. If you are not experienced with the disability you could take the other children out for a special treat afternoon, or offer to pay for an experienced babysitter so the parents can have time out together.
• Acts of kindness
Offer to run errands, bake a cake, or be a taxi service when needed. Sometimes a parent is simply too tired from dealing with their little one to do these simple tasks with their other children.
• Social events
Organise as a community, fun days which children with disabilities can be part of. Sports days, picnics, 10-pin bowling, etc, are ways in which all children get so much pleasure.
• Work placement
As the children become young people they will want to work like other young people. Look for ways in which your work environment could use the skills you have noticed in a local child with a disability.
• Skills development
Support the assisted living programmes where young people go into flats. Offer to teach them to cook a favourite meal of yours, mow lawns, or fix their fence, etc. Offer to throw a rugby ball around with them, or teach them to knit.
• A word for the parents
Let your community be part of your child’s life. This means acknowledging their disability (no matter how small) and asking for help at times.