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Here's how to support friends with a child with autism

For National Autism Awareness Month, ideas to support those you love and care about

This is a guest post by Ryan Blair.

As we come to the end of April, World Autism Awareness month, I want to leave you with some thoughts on how you can support your friends and family members with autism.

I am the proud father of a 6-year-old son who was diagnosed with autism when he was 2. Prior to his diagnosis, we knew something was wrong, but we thought it was his hearing. It was a combination of our intuition, our friends and our family that put us on the trail to start the testing process.

I’ll never forget when a friend said to me, “Reagan isn’t developing like others his age.”

Being a competitive person, I needed exactly that push to take the matter seriously and start having Reagan tested. Once Reagan was diagnosed, his mother and I went through some very difficult emotions. How do we tell our family? Do we attempt to keep this private? Do we risk labeling him? Labeling us?

It really does “take a village to raise a child,” so in that spirit, we decided to share Reagan’s challenge not just with our immediate family but also with the world. In retrospect, four years later, our transparency helped rally the support we needed from our friends and family, and it also served as an amazing accountability reminder — one that his mother and I needed.

Here are the ways you can show your support:

  • If you know an autism specialist or an advocate, share your connections, or make a referral to someone you know who may need advice and guidance. One friend in particular, who also has a child with special needs, took the time to introduce us to an educational advocate who has been a major help for us. Amy, if you’re reading this, thank you!
  • Offer to babysit, if you can. Friends will offer to watch Reagan so his mother and I can get away for a night or for a few days, and it gives us time to relax and approach the next set of challenges, refreshed and reconnected.
  • It may not seem like much, but giving someone a reminder that you care can really make a difference on a day-to-day level. My business colleagues send us constant words of encouragement, attend Reagan's birthday celebrations and show support for him wherever they can.
  • Turn a challenge into a strength. Family members constantly remind my son that he is gifted, and this gives him courage and confidence, which he’ll need all throughout his life.
  • Talk about your experiences with autism. Many of my readers and fans on social media share articles about autism or share personal stories of their struggles with similar adversities, all of which we’ve received with open arms. We know that we aren’t alone. My Facebook is RyanBlair.fans and I would love to hear from you.

Today, Reagan’s amazing progress is largely because of the support he has received from friends, family and his educators. So, I hope you will feel empowered to support your friends and family with autism after reading this, and if you are parenting a child with special needs, I hope you take the lessons from my story about seeking help from your community and staying transparent — not just during World Autism Month but for the entire year.

Ryan Blair is a serial entrepreneur and self made millionaire. He is the CEO & Co Founder of global healthy lifestyle brand, ViSalus, and the New York Times bestselling author of Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: How I went From Gang Member to Multimillionaire Entrepreneur.

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