Would you ever bring up concerns that your niece or nephew might have autism to your sister or brother? Would you feel comfortable expressing concerns about your best friend’s little girl having speech delays or never making eye contact?
You may have a friend or family member who has a child who you notice may behave just a little left of center. It may not be anything you can exactly put your finger on. It may just be a hunch. Or it may be a whole bunch of little things. Apart, they may not add up to anything other than a child being a child, but when you put them together, there is definitely something wrong.
You know it. The child’s parent probably knows it. Or do they?
As a parent, it’s easy to see why they may still be in denial. The rose colored glasses of parenthood color everything beautiful. Not to mention, there are enough people who tell us not to worry. Let the child develop at their own pace.
But if you notice something consistently over time, especially if it is a family member, I think you’re obligated to say something. Of course, it’s difficult at best to decide how to bring up the subject that there might be something wrong with someone’s child. Many parents are very sensitive about their parenting skills and will feel attacked. So how do you soften the blow?
First, it’s important to convey your concerns with care and support, never with judgment or pushy interference. And don’t make a diagnosis. You are not a doctor, so as soon as you say words like “autism” or “apraxia,” you may hit a nerve and get the parent defensive. If the child is young, you can mention a difference in speech development or mention that they won’t make eye contact to your friend or family.
Have some literature available to provide them if they have any questions. Even if they don’t, give it to them they may need it a few days later once they’ve thought more about it and gotten past the hurt and realized that you come form a place of love.
If they flat out don’t want to talk about it, be supportive, but don’t mention the subject again. You’ve already said your piece. They heard you, even if they didn’t want to listen. If and when they do have to consider it in the future, they will be able to turn to you for advice and support.
Just ask yourself, if the situation were reversed, would you want your friend or family member to say anything to you? How would you want to be approached? There in will lay your answer.