Due to my work as a writer and public speaker about my experiences navigating the world on the autism spectrum, over the years I’ve been contacted by thousands of parents asking for advice about their child’s autism diagnosis. During those times there have been many different emotions I’ve seen from parents, ranging from sadness and uncertainty, happiness about finally knowing the diagnosis, and often a neutral look where I cannot see any expression.
I was thinking about this recently when a mom reached out to me online, telling me that her child was just diagnosed with autism. I asked her some preliminary questions such as “When were they diagnosed?” and the follow up hit me when she said “My 2-year-old was diagnosed with autism today.”
This was one of the first times I ever talked to a parent on the actual day of their child’s diagnosis. She told me it was one of the most emotional days of her life. She told me about her heart breaking for her child. How she had suspected for some time, and now it had finally been confirmed.
Then she said I had inspired her and given her hope for her child. For her to contact me on this day to reach out left me at a loss for words. I took a few minutes to compose myself before following up. For those other parents out there whose child is diagnosed, I hope this message I’m about to share will be helpful for you as well. Here’s what I told the mom.
Thank you for your kind words. Remember that you are never alone in this community, and there are so many people you can rely on. Many of them will have already walked similar roads to yours. Lean on these people. Listen to their stories and most importantly, cherish each and every single day that you have with your child.
We are learning more about autism every day to provide them with supports to see them progress.
I know today may have left you with so many different emotions. My parents had those same feelings when I was diagnosed with autism when I was 4. But my parents were able to get through that day and so will you. You will become a champion for your child and their greatest advocate. I wish you nothing but the best for you and your child in the future.
P.S: When you feel up to it, please look through this Tool Kit from Autism Speaks called the 100 Day Kit for Newly Diagnosed Families of Young Children. This guide was created specifically for families of children ages 4 and under to make the best possible use of the 100 days following a child’s diagnosis of autism.
She followed up hours later with gratitude and saying that she would look into the Tool Kit. To this day I’ve been thankful to this mom for sharing her story with me. Stories like hers are why I’m an advocate today. If I can ever be a resource for you like I was for her, you can message me on my Facebook page.
My hope by sharing my successes and challenges on the spectrum is that I can help provide our community with resources they can use to help their children. We can do great things when we support another.
A version of this article originally appeared on Kerrymagro.com.