How can I support a family of a child with autism?
To effectively support families of children with autism, professionals need to be willing to form successful working partnerships.
Family centred practice encompassing communication, power sharing and respect for the knowledge that families possess is key.
Families have the right to best determine their own needs and what is the right course of action for their child.
Professionals in the field need to be aware that
• Families need information that is clear, concise and correct
• Familiesneed support to negotiate the maze of services to get their needs met.
• Sometimes families just need someone to listen to them.
• Diagnosis can be a traumatic time, but other stages of the lifespan can be just as difficult- i.e. transition to school, puberty and entering adulthood.
• Support needs will change over time and what has worked before may not necessarily work again.
• Be aware of the amount of stress the primary caregivers in the family may be under and be sensitive to their needs.
• A good collaborative partnership is based on trust communication and accountability.
• Families have the best experience and knowledge of their own child.
What you can do
• Be open, honest and accountable
• See each family as unique
• Consider the needs of all family members
• Clearly identify goals, strengths, weaknesses and resources that will affect the ability of the family to support the child.
• Think outside the box when providing support – traditionalstrategies may not work for some families -they may need very specific or unusual options to have their support needs met.
• The child will thrive best when the family is adequately supported; other family members are less stressed and better resourced.
• Honesty and accountability are key as well as valuing the knowledge and lived experience of the families you are working with .
• Value the family’s experience and knowledge as their own expert
• Take into consideration the families strengths, lifestyle, dynamics, resources and other issues into consideration before imposing any sort of new routine’s or therapy requirements into their lifestyle
• Keep in contact regularly and check in on progress towards goals
• If handing over a family’s case to another worker- prepare the family, do a thorough handover- families dislike inconsistency and change between workers
• If something is not working take steps to rectify the problem quickly to preserve the relationship.