It can be overwhelming to receive the diagnosis of autism. There are a lot of things you want to start doing and learning immediately, so here's a guide to those first few weeks:
- Whatever you are feeling is okay. The experience of receiving a diagnosis of autism can vary greatly in every family. I have heard families describe it as everything from “devastation” “fear” and “guilt’” to “relief” and “at ease”. The experience for every family varies greatly since some may be completely blindsided by it, whereas others may have had a sneaking suspicion about it all along. Just know that which ever one you are is perfectly fine.
- Educate yourself. Unfortunately, I have realized from families that I work with that they are their child’s biggest advocates. You may have to fight to get them the therapies they need –either outpatient, in schools, or at home. As much as I want to tell you it will be easy to get these services, my experience has taught me the opposite. I have learned, however, that the strength of well-informed parents who KNOW what their children need and fight for it is nearly unstoppable. My favorite “Intro to Autism” book is Autism Spectrum Disorder (revised): The Complete Guide to Understanding Autism.
- You are not alone. Once your child has received a diagnosis of autism, this may be the last thing you think of. Any diagnosis is isolating and points to everything that is different about your child that places them in the minority. I strongly recommend talking to other parents of children with autism either in person or as we know it’s probably easier online (many many facebook groups dedicated to this, websites, message boards). And of course do not forget your THERAPISTS who will be there to support you every step of the way. Your therapists will love your child just as you do and are always open to hearing what is happening at home/ in school/ at the parks that they can help make easier for you and your child.
- Your child will make the world a better place. Just by being different than other children, they will teach others patience, acceptance, and broadening of ideas of which they may have been previously unaware. I’m sure your child will challenge you daily and push you to be a more loving, strong family along the way. And sure they honestly may get kicked out of daycares, scream for hours for a reason beyond you, and go through months of putting E-V- E-R- Y-T-H- I-N- G in their mouth. But looking around, you may see other children or adults acknowledging these differences with a genuine and explorative curiosity. Every time your child does something “different” this can be a teaching point for children in his class or adults in a grocery store to understand some things that may be more challenging for them that others may be unaware of.
- Your child is more than Autism. Never let this define your child in any way. Sure it may shed light on how he hates having his hair cut or cannot make eye contact during a conversation. But lets not forget everything else about your child that makes them so amazing and unique. Whether it’s their uncontrollable laughter when you tickle them or their uncanny ability to recall every fact about sea creatures that you never knew you didn’t know. Your child is a child first and so much more than a diagnosis can ever describe.