Deanna Picon has proclaimed Saturday, April 16, as a day for family

members and friends to support the parents of children with autism and

special needs.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 68 U.S.

children has an autism spectrum disorder.  Behind these startling statistics

are overwhelmed and unprepared parents, whose lives have been forever changed by an autism diagnosis.


“These parents are hidden heroes who bravely face autism and all the enormous challenges and huge responsibilities that accompany it on a daily basis. They may be your best friend, your cousin, your neighbor or co-worker,” says Picon.  “Special needs parents deserve respect and recognition for many reasons, including the sheer guts it takes to stay dedicated to this challenge."


Family and friends can use these easy tips to help and acknowledge the

dedication of special needs parents:


Provide quality, personal time.  Raising a child with a disability and

taking care of all their daily needs doesn't leave parents with much free

time. Volunteer to watch their son or daughter at home or take him/her to

a park, museum or movie for a few hours. This will give them the

opportunity to participate in hobbies, events and activities they enjoy.

It will also do wonders for the parents to unload the weight of their

responsibilities, even if it's only for an hour.


Help with everyday tasks.  Pick up some food and beverages at the supermarket when you shop or drop off some letters or packages at the post office. It'll save parents much needed time and energy.


Prepare a meal.  A simple lunch or dinner or even a take-out meal from a local pizzeria can make everyone feel good and valued.  Gift cards for a neighborhood restaurant can be a wonderful surprise.


Assist with household chores Vacuum a room, sort the laundry or cut some lettuce and tomatoes for a salad. Remember, no gesture is too small and parents will always be grateful.


Keep in touch and be supportive.  Special needs parents often feel alone and isolated, so it's really beneficial to let them know you're there, if they need you. Send a greeting card, text or email or call just to say "Hello". Drop by for a visit and have a good talk.  Allow them to laugh, cry, vent or blow off some steam.  No one expects you to solve their problems or provide solutions. A friendly face or shoulder to lean on works perfectly.


These kind of simple but valuable good deeds don't have to be limited to friends and family. Work colleagues can express their admiration for how well a special needs co-worker balances work and family responsibilities by showing their appreciation:


Surprise them. Little gestures can bring a big smile to the special needs parent in your office. Buy a cup of coffee or tea with a donut or bagel and place it on their desk in the morning.  What a great way to start their day!


Treat them. Celebrate "Autism Awareness Month" with your co-worker, just as you would his/her birthday. Buy a small cake or take the special needs parent out for a nice lunch.


"It's wonderful to honor and recognize the amazing autism and special needs parents in your life during Autism Awareness Month. But keep in mind, these simple acts of kindness don't have to be reserved for special days or months," says Picon. "Parenting is a 24/7, 365 day job for these parents, so anything you can do to help them during the year is much appreciated."