The question that I am asked most frequently goes something like this:
“My grandson Joey is three years old and he’s not talking and he doesn’t sleep. My daughter in law has had to pick him up from pre-school at least once a week because he has tantrums and is nearly impossible to soothe. He never plays with other children and I think he has autism, but my son says there is nothing wrong. I think he’s in denial. What should I do?”
Whether you have a friend or family member that you think has autism or something like it, you may be wrong, and even if you are right,you can’t force people to get help if they don’t think they need it.
There is a way, however, to start a conversation. Here is an example:
“You are doing such a great job raising Joey; I admire you so much. I know you’ve been struggling with his tantrums and his sleep and I’m worried about the toll it’s taking on you you. What can I do to help?”
This caring and non-threatening approach usually opens up an honest dialogue, but resist the compulsion to say “I think he has X” or “if he were my child, I’d do Y”. Instead, try this:
“I know you are doing your best. If you are worried, you owe to yourself to get some help with all of this. Even if it’s nothing, there is no downside to having Joey checked out. You’ll feel so much better knowing you’ve done all that you can.”
Then feel free to pass Joey’s mom to me.
I can point her in the right direction.
Laura Shumaker is the author of A REGULAR GUY: GROWING UP WITH AUTISM
She is also a PROUD contributor to the THE THINKING PERSONS GUIDE TO AUTISM
Read Laura’s popular San Francisco Chronicle Autism Blog HERE.