10 Things I Recommend Doing After Your Child’s Autism Diagnosis
I had the honor of being interviewed by Kerry Magro of Autism Speaks for his cable television show, “Different is Beautiful.” It was wonderful meeting Kerry and talking about my writing and my life with the boys.
Kerry asked me a variety of questions that day, ranging from how I got started with blogging to what some of my initial reactions were when my eldest son was diagnosed with autism. I enjoyed speaking about both topics, but it was the last question that stayed with me.
By the time my son, Justin, was diagnosed, I’d noticed his differences for almost a year — putting a label to them was almost a relief.
Eleven years ago, diagnoses for children under 18 months weren’t common. Justin was 17 months old when he was diagnosed. But today, some children are given a suspected diagnosis as early as 6 months old, and their parents won’t have a year to ease into their suspicions that their children are developing differently than neurotypical children. For many parents this label might come as a shock. Their first reactions might be denial, anger, fear or wondering if somehow they caused the diagnosis.
At the very least, most parents will probably feel overwhelmed.
There are things parents of newly diagnosed children can do in the first weeks and months that can help those overwhelmed feelings. Here are my top 10 things I did 11 years ago and recommend to all of you:
1. Ask for help. It may take you a while to figure out what you need, but ask for it. People will generally want to do something for your family but won’t know exactly what to do.
2. Make friends with other parents of autistic children. They can be wonderful resources and provide invaluable support.
3. Find an autism support group. It may take a while to find the right fit; don’t get discouraged, keep trying!
4. If you’re married or in a relationship, make time for it. You will need to support each other a lot in the first few months after a diagnosis. Make sure you get out and take some childless time for yourselves.
5. If you know you’re going to need to see various professionals for your child, make the appointments immediately. Sometimes it takes six months to get into an office. Further diagnoses may help your child get treatments or therapy.
6. If it’s too hard to tell people, ask a friend or relative to share your child’s autism diagnosis with others. I did this with our second child on the spectrum, and it made life a lot easier.
7. Check out the Autism Speaks website and take a look at their tool kits. I believe there’s a lot of valuable information there.
8. Make lists of what you need to do and perhaps purchase a separate calendar for appointments, due dates on paperwork, etc. This will hopefully help you feel more organized and less overwhelmed.
9. If you’re ready to talk about your child but you don’t want opinions, tell people you just want them to listen. People mean well, but unless they have an autistic child, they haven’t walked in your shoes. Telling them up front that you just need to vent can help.
10. Take care of yourself. Keep doctor’s appointments you’ve made for yourself, and carve out alone time if at all possible. You will need a break once in a while!
Follow this journey on Autism Mommy-Therapist.