7 Ways to Help the Parent of a Tantruming Autistic Child
April is autism awareness month. Did you know that I have had my teenage son with autism throw a complete tantrum in the store, parking lot, school, and church? It is embarrassing and I have honestly wished more than once that I could make us disappear.
We have had both rude remarks and kindness shown when in these dire circumstances. May I say from my heart how wonderful it is when someone is kind! I invite you to be kind and to do or not do some of the following things:
Here are 7 things you can do/not do if you see a child larger than a 3-year-old throwing a tantrum
1. Don’t judge
You have not walked a mile in their shoes and you do not know the circumstance. Give that person the benefit of the doubt. You don’t know if that person is struggling with a disability or mental illness, and we all have bad days. Ask yourself, “If that was me, how would I want people to react?” Then, show compassion.
2. Be kind
Smile kindly. This shows you aren’t upset or offended by what is happening. Whatever you do, don’t make a disgusted face and roll your eyes muttering under your breath about how they should be a better parent. With mental illness or neurological disorders it really isn’t about parenting–it is often about coping as best we can with the circumstances we have been given.
3. Ask if you can help
If you are comfortable, ask if there is anything you can do to help. If you have a treat in your pocket/purse, you can ask the parent or caregiver if that might help calm their child.
4. Run Interference
If this parent has other children that need to be corralled, be helpful and keep an eye on them for the distracted parent. Or perhaps the person’s purse is in the cart–keep an eye on that for them while they are distracted. Shoo gawking people along.
5. Don’t call security or the police
Please don’t call 911 or store security unless the person asks you to do so. If you are concerned for your safety or the safety of the caregiver, ask if they want you to call the police or security before you do it. Also, don’t complain to the store about the outburst–it isn’t their fault.
6. Don’t film it
There are so many people out there trying to make a name for themselves on social media. Please don’t be someone who takes advantage of another person’s hard time. We don’t need gawkers or stalkers or people videoing our hardest moments. If you see someone else pulling out their phone–encourage them to move along.
7. Say a prayer for them
If you are a praying-type person, offer up a silent, quick heartfelt prayer for all those involved in the tantrum. Sometimes when my boys have had fits it was only by the grace of God that we made it through–please pray for both the adult and the child. They both need it!
My friends, during this month of autism awareness, let this be a great reminder to be kind when you are faced with a tantrum situation. There are all types of people in this world with many different types of abilities and disabilities. Be kind to everyone–no matter what.
For all the autism parents out there: hang in there! Life is tough sometimes, but keep going.
If this has been helpful to you or you know someone that would enjoy reading this, please share it to inspire hope.