When your child has a disability, it can often feel that it’s just you and your family against the world.
We aren’t always great at asking for assistance and it can sometimes be hard to actually verbalise or work out exactly what’s needed at any given time. Also, friends and family may want to help out, but they simply don’t know what we need, what’s going to help the most or they may simply be worried about getting in the way or causing offence.
Here are some practical ideas you could pass on to friends to let them know how they can help take the load off.
Simple gestures like a call, message or email to say hello helps keep the communication open. Sometimes we don’t want to ‘burden’ our friends or family with our problems and it feels hard to reach out; it’s easier to just put our heads down and keep on keeping on. Show us that you are willing to learn, adjust and try to be beside us as we navigate all our new challenges. It makes such a difference to know that we’re not alone on our journey. Please don’t stop inviting us and our children to events either – we may not accept the invitation but the fact that you asked sends a positive message and lets us know you’re thinking about us.
Just like any other family, we love visitors, so clear some time in your own schedule and come and see us. Just check in advance when would be a good time to call in! In doing this, you are helping us to connected to the world, and relieving some of the isolation which can come with having a child with high care needs.
Be open to learning
Ask questions and show that you are willing to learn about our child’s disorder; it will give you an idea of the type of support we may need and where we might be struggling. Read about our child’s diagnosis, their symptoms, treatment and what we may be experiencing. Ask us questions – you may find that we are than more willing to open up and let you into our world.
Offer to watch our other children
Children with additional needs often require most of the attention within a family, with the days and weeks focused around appointments, routines, medical care and other non-negotiables. Any other children in the family learn to adjust but they have needs too. This is where you come in. By offering to watch or spend time with our special needs siblings, you are giving them some special attention, just for them.
Help with housework and errands
When you have a child with special needs, simple housework tasks and errands that are usually second nature become much more complicated. Not to mention, pretty low on the list of priorities. A quick trip to the supermarket becomes a time-consuming task or there may be very little energy left at the end of the day for any chores around the house. Offer some help in any way you can.
Help us celebrate
Celebrations bring people together. Make sure you take the time to celebrate and acknowledge the successes of our children with disabilities too. Even if the successes and milestones don’t look quite the same as those of your own children, they are hugely significant accomplishments and milestones.
Cooking and food preparation quickly slips to the bottom of the list when challenges occur. And we all know that not having to worry about what’s for dinner helps the day run more smoothly. So, showing up with some food, nothing fancy required, will always be appreciated.
Offering a listening ear helps us to know we are not alone. It shows you are willing to learn, understand and support, and that you are available. And that makes the world of difference.