How can I help family members feel comfortable around children who are on the spectrum?

Loading the player …

Discussion: As a clinician or therapist doing the family assessment, you will be able to sense if there will be a deeper resistance from the parents, states Dr. Greenspan. “They will speak about what they do and don’t do, and the ways they are comfortable or uncomfortable interacting.”

After that happens, suggest that they try something different at home, and encourage them to explore interactions beyond their comfort level. In the next session, ask them how it feels. “Be supportive and gentle, and do it in the context of the family, remembering that each family is different,” urges Dr. Greenspan.

You can ask parents or family members to try different activities during the assessment, and gauge the levels of discomfort. If there is resistance, take a break from the activity and talk about it. Above all, reminds Dr. Greenspan, “Be very empathetic about what feelings the parents or family members express.”