5 Tips For Parents After Their Child’s Autism Diagnosis
My 2 year old son was diagnosed with autism this year. There has been a roller coaster of emotions and experiences in this short period of time.
I’ve been reflecting on that intense month after his diagnosis. These are five tips I wish I would have known ahead of time. I’ve learned so much since that first month. I hope these tips will be of help to you as you navigate the beginning of your family’s journey:
You’ve just walked out of the office with your child’s autism diagnosis. The amount of information you’ve been given can be overwhelming. There are so many questions you might have and a wave of emotions you might be experiencing. Adding to that is the long list of places you need to contact, referrals to be made, insurance approvals to obtain and paperwork to start before your child can get further help. You may feel you want to accomplish everything all at once. Fight that impulse and take one task at a time. Make a list of what tasks need to be completed and break them into manageable pieces. For example, today I will call my insurance to discuss what therapies are covered and the approval process. Tomorrow I will contact the school district to discuss what services and supports they offer for children diagnosed with autism.
One day at a time.
It’s easy to forget to care for yourself when you are working hard to support your newly diagnosed child. Taking time for self-care will keep your mindset positive which in turn helps your whole family. Go out on a nature walk and try to focus on what you can see, touch and feel on your walk. Be in the moment. Make yourself a hot cup of tea and curl up with a good book. Treat yourself to a warm bath. Put on music that makes you smile. Watch a funny movie and enjoy some deep belly laughs.
3. Avoid Information Overload.
You may be tempted to read every article that comes up online, buy every book on the shelves and take in as many perspectives as possible on autism. The urge to quickly assimilate as much information as possible is a normal reaction. You want answers now. Remind yourself your child’s autism diagnosis is a lifelong journey. You have plenty of time to deepen your knowledge and understanding. As they often say in the disability community, “If you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism.” What may be true for one child may not be true for yours. Your child is unique and no one knows and loves them more than you. It is a steep learning curve so be patient as you go along. Pace yourself. You’ve got this.
You are now faced with whether or not you want to tell friends and family about your child’s diagnosis. There is no right or wrong answer in how you decide to go about doing this. If you decide to share your child’s diagnosis with others, be prepared for a variety of reactions. Even the most well-intentioned loved ones may react in ways you may not like. If this is the case, remember they may not understand the diagnosis as well as you do. Try not to take their lack of understanding personally. Educate them in a loving and informative manner. You are your child’s best advocate. The more you teach others about autism, the more awareness you bring to those living with the diagnosis.
Though you may feel mixed emotions about the road ahead, know that there is an incredible community out there to support you. Some of the best people I’ve met have been through connecting with the autism community. Join an autism walk for awareness and march proudly with others who care. Join a disability parent support group to connect with parents who understand your situation. Find local community autism groups and non-profit organizations that offer free play groups, activities and family events. The more you put yourself out there, the less isolated you might feel.
I’m here, and many other families are here cheering your family on. Almost everyone has been touched in some way by a wonderful person with autism. We are all in this together and we are stronger than ever.
Visit Becca Louts’ website.
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