What to Say to a Parent of a Child with Autism

Kind words and specific offers of help can make a real difference.

Adults who do not have autistic children may not always know the right thing to say to those who do. They may also want to offer to do something but don’t know what might be helpful. Here are some thoughtful ways to connect:

Let the parents know that you would like to help. Often parents of autistic kids are so caught up in caregiving that they don’t think to ask for support. And it may be hard for them to ask for help, even with an invitation to do so—so don’t wait to be asked.

When you offer, be specific. Instead of asking, “Is there anything I can do to help you out?” suggest a task (“Would you like me to come with you to appointments, for support?” “Can I babysit so you and your spouse can go out to dinner?”).

Don’t stop offering. Even if the parents have turned you down, their situation can change. Wait some time and offer again.

Treat the child’s parents as you would all others. Offer the same compliment to their child that you would give to any typically developing child.

Show you care. Sometimes what parents need is just a kind word and a sympathetic ear. You can say:

  • I’m here for you if you want to talk, or if you just need a hug.
  • I don’t know what you’re going through, but I’m always willing to listen.
  • Whenever you need some time to yourself, I’d like to help out.