Group Home

Parents often face criticism from friends and members of their extended family when they make a decision to move a youngster with autism into residential placement. Once parents have explored all options and made a decision for residential placement based on the best interest of their child, they face that difficult task of trying to explain and justify their decision to others who have not walked in their shoes. No matter how hard they try, many parents find that they cannot convince everyone of the wisdom of their decision. Three strategies help smooth this rocky situation.

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1. Acknowledge concern. It is helpful to everyone to let people express their opinion about your decision. Then it is certainly appropriate to respond with a brief, non-defensive explanation. You could say something like, “I appreciate your concern. I’m sure you know we love Bobby very much, and we have made this decision after having explored all options. We are excited about this new opportunity.”

2. Emphasize the Positive. Many people think of residential placement as a prison sentence or as locking a person up and “throwing away the key.” In reality, moving into residential placement is more like going away to college or to a long-term summer camp. Parents can respond to criticism by saying something like this: “Thank you for your concern. Bobby seems to be adjusting to his new home, and he is actually enjoying his stay. It is as if he gets to spend weekdays at summer camp. And we can’t wait to see him every Saturday when he comes home.”

3. Smile and nod. Sometimes undue criticism comes from people who will never be convinced you made a good decision. Aunt Tilly may start spreading rumors at a family get-together about your devious plan to get banish your son to a terrible place. In this case, just pretend like you don’t understand a word she says, and change the focus of the conversation by talking about something fun you did with Bobby recently and sharing some pictures of his new friends or staff. Sometimes it is best to just let flak roll off your back.

TIP FOR THE DAY. Family members may be the target of criticism no matter what decisions they make for their youngsters. If the criticism is a result of lack of knowledge about the situation, we can help inform others about the circumstances. If the criticism is unwarranted, we need not waste time and energy worrying about convincing the person of the wisdom of the decision.

NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. Feel free to send me a confidential email at with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism.

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