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Three Ways You Can Help a Mom With Autistic Children

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momlogic's Vivian:

As we've seen from a series of downright upsetting events in the news, the stress of raising an autistic child can be overwhelming enough for moms to snap and do the unthinkable. In the past two weeks alone, THREE autistic children were murdered by their moms.


With three daughters on the autism spectrum, Kim Stagliano knows these stressors quite well. "When you are diagnosed with something like diabetes, there is a plan," she says. "Autism is very different. Your suggestions, your access to services and the budget availability is subject to where you live and who you happen to see. There's very little handholding, and that's why parents are under so much stress. You [must] always be hyper-vigilant of [the autistic child's] safety. They might step right into traffic, because they don't have a sense of danger. So every moment is fight-or-flight. There is very little letting your guard down, because if you do, the results can be catastrophic."

Another stressor: The simplest of social situations can easily become a minefield to navigate. "When you go into a grocery store with a child in the terrible twos and your kid has a tantrum, you get knowing smiles from other parents," says Stagliano. "Autism is invisible until you see the behavior, which sometimes seems really odd. They have meltdowns regardless of age, and you don't get the same kind of sympathetic looks from others when the child is 16. It's debilitating. And a look of surprise from others when these things happen might be enough to break your heart."

Through Age of Autism,the online newsletter she edits, and a book chronicling her personal journey with her children, "All I Can Handle: I'm No Mother Teresa" (due out in November), Stagliano hopes to provide support for other moms of autistic children.

If you know a mom with an autistic child and you'd like to help, Stagliano says these three simple gestures can go a long way:

Give Her Some Time
Autistic children are usually most comfortable in their own homes, so offer to go to her house and insist she leave and take some time for herself. "It's like triage," says Stagliano. "Even if she goes to Starbucks for an hour, a break will be a huge help."

Know What She's Dealing With
Take the time to read a book about autism, such as "The Autism Book" by Dr. Sears, so you'll have a better understanding of what she's going through when discussing her issues.

Food = Love
Stagliano says that the simple act of dropping off a dinner -- or the means to a dinner -- will mean the world to the mom of an autistic child (who hasso much to juggle)."Some autistic kids are on gluten-free diets, so even dropping off a gift card to a natural-foods store for $20 shows you care and that you are thinking of her," she says.

next: Is It Possible to Talk to Your Kids Too Much?
67 comments so far | Post a comment now
marji August 11, 2010, 10:23 AM

Yes Mary, it is getting old. Your posts get are so out of touch with the reality of autism, and I daresay, even child raising. I was the first to comment on her post, dear parents of children with autism, and Mary said I was name calling, that was done privately between my husband and myself after I read him her ignorant words. Lol! She is not worth the effort to try and explain our and our childrens lives. People like her are not able to learn because they are simply not able to listen. Hers is not even an opinion based on any fact, be it personal or otherwise. While many people who are not affected by autism directly are more than willing to learn, unfortunately there are but a few, (hopefully) people like this woman. And Mary, how does it feel to not get any support in your twisted ways of thinking, does this not say anything to how invalid you are? You are able to weigh the evidence of this aren’t you? Perhaps someday when karma does come your way you will meet more people like us, rather than yourself, who will show you the compassion and empathy you lack. Poor woman should really just be felt sorry for, it really is quite sad.

Mary August 11, 2010, 10:52 AM

How silly you all are to assume I don’t know what it’s like. I have been through IEP meetings. My child has CP, she’s been in PT/OT since she was a year old. It’s odd how the school can tell me there’s no funding for therapy and my child “doesn’t qualify” yet there are four Autistic kids who the district all but trips over to help. Maybe there are kids who need assistance more than others, but don’t blow smoke up my skirt and tell me a child with Cerebral Palsy does not qualify for therapy. Not only do these kids receive therapy, but extracurricular programs have been paid for by the PTO for these kids as well. Other parents (including me) are paying full price.

wona August 11, 2010, 10:59 AM

daniel..what a fantastic brother you are..
and i agree ..the article is about how to help the caregiver, not judge them or their methods..

Kim Faucher August 11, 2010, 7:56 PM

Mary, I am not going to pretend to know what its like to parent a child with CP, I should assume you shouldn’t judge those of us that parent children with autism diagnosis.
We, as a group of parents of children with special needs, need to stick together to support one another, and try and change our society into accepting differences in individuals rather than seperating or judging them further.
I don’t think people disagree with the idea of over diagnosis, but that doesn’t make it any less hard for those of us who have a child that needs those services.
Only a licensed doctor/psychologist is able to diagnosis a child.. its not pulling it out of a hat, it is a very rigid, thorough examination.
I would suggest you do some research about autism before commenting on it.

Shauns Mom August 11, 2010, 9:59 PM

As a mother of a very smart,sweet 5 year old whom has Autism, I would just like to say that even though living with this extra work to heal him is very hard and scarey at times, I wouldnt trade it for anything in the world! The things I have learned just from him alone have changed my entire outlook on life and whats really important. He amazes me every day! Something people can do for parents with autistic children that will help, would be to help spread more awareness! Children with Autism want to be just like you, alot of them are just stuck in their bodies and minds. More awareness will help them feel better about fitting in and help other people learn what is really the truth. Unlike some people who would rather just think they know what they are talking about,,when they are really clueless. Educate yourself before running your mouths! CREATE AUTISM AWARENESS and educate the mislead and uninformed! Let the knowledge spread!

Lisa M August 12, 2010, 5:34 PM


I hope my statement about person first language did not come off as a criticism. Mostly, just trying to spread awareness.

I have a half nephew, I have raised who was diagnosed with Autism in 1991. He lives independently now, carries a full time job (at Wal-Mart) and is happy as a clam. I have a son who is six who is cute as a button, and is also deaf, blind and has cerebral palsy.

One thing along my pathway in this disability word is the difference in which my children have been/are treated. My eldest, I often heard things , “Well, if only you would discipline him”, and other comments along those lines. With my son, Ethan who is clearly disabled. In a wheelchair, non-verbal, ect Most folks don’t have the gumption to question me, at least openly.

It’s damn hard. It’s hard to be a parent, let alone a parent of children with special needs.

I would like to once again articulate, that if people are seeking help… from a professional, no matter what the outcome is, the family should receive appropriate help. Whether the child has a diagnosis, or if the parents need some guidance. Hopefully those who are trained in giving diagnoses, helping families and guiding us through therapies and skills development are providing avenues for appropriate outcomes.

I think more and more we have trained people who give accurate diagnoses and help those who don’t have a diagnosis cope with the situations at home.

Once again I would say, would someone actually suggest these folks NOT seek help? THAT is barbaric.

Lisa M August 12, 2010, 5:37 PM

I also really liked the three things. That would work for almost any disability that a family might be dealing with.

Give them time-
Invest in Understanding the diagnosis-
Food = Love.

All three, excellent suggestions.

Kim Spencer August 14, 2010, 2:37 PM

Mary has shown her motivation, and it is very misdirected. She feels like children with autism have taken away from her child with CP. Better there are parents out there trying to prevent this from happening to others and looking for answers vs. sitting tight and taking up the resources. And there are plenty of parents out there doing just that…calm down, Mary, if I have my way, we’ll be out of your way in no time. We will get rid of autism…and let you back to your resources…as soon as the government admits the environment/vaccines/chemicals are causing it…

Mary August 18, 2010, 8:54 AM

You’re not in my way. We ditched the IEP & we take care of her therapy outside of school. She does not require extra attention on a daily basis from the teacher which takes away from other students. Go ahead guys, keep looking at me as the bad guy. If the day ever comes that my child is causing other children to lose out on their education, then MY child will be pulled and put into a classroom that will better suit her needs.

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Gloria September 11, 2010, 5:36 PM

Mary & Jamie, you are sadly mistaken in many areas. Unless you LIVE this nightmare, you cannot truly understand the depth of the destruction the schools, doctors, therapists & friends can cause. Trust is a HUGE issue with many parents of children with autism. I had a sister that thought she knew about autism because she works at a special needs ski program. She has not spoken to my children or myself for 3 years and I am just finding out that she has been outspoken about MY children & their upbringing. She does not agree with the dietary changes, supplements, DAN doctors etc. My heart is broken and my trust in people is shattered. She has joined forces with my brother & his wife (a nurse) to badmouth my husband & I and the choices we have made for our family. We have 4 children, one with autism, one with down syndrome and another with JRA/Celiac/ADHD induced by a vaccine injury. Unless you were there with my family, experiencing the daily grind 24/7 you should shut your mouth and listen. We need someone to talk to and be safe with. Someone to lean on a bit and give us hope. Our spouse can’t do it, they are hurting too. NOBODY should judge other people & their choices on how they raise their children. Mary, you need to talk to your ‘friend’ and fess up how you feel because the damage you are unleashing will not be able to be undone if she hears your views from someone else! Try taking her kid for a week and see if that doesn’t wake you up to the reality of autism.

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Erin G November 7, 2010, 2:30 PM

The lame BLAME the Parent Syndrome has seeded itself since the 1960’s and should be examined in their relationship to several comments. My son and daughter have taught me how to be the best parent and develop the best honed parenting skills possible. I think that the ignorance displayed in certain comments, can be an opprotunity to learn about understanding someone that is different than you. Mary has an opinion that is shared by many, many people. They deserve our compassion and understanding. It’s akin to the people who sterotypically think any group of people share some typicalness. Predjudice is as rampant as ignorance,today. Please write to me at about your own family and their experiences with acceptance of autism and it’s effect on your family. I would like to hear about people’s negative and positive stories Thanks Erin G

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