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Getting an Autism Diagnosis Meant My Daughter Could Receive the Emotional Support She Needs

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My daughter is 11 years old and on the autism spectrum. She needs social and emotional support to stay happy within herself. She is a very sensitive child, her environment affects how she feels physically and has an impact on her emotional health. Sensory overload can cause her discomfort, and busy environments can affect her concentration. She wants to connect with others, but she is also apprehensive of other people’s reactions, which in turn makes forming lasting friendships difficult.

Despite her having to balance her day with these difficulties, her learning is unaffected. I find this in itself an amazing credit to my daughter. She works incredibly hard, and more than anything she wants to please those teaching her. Her reaction in the classroom has always been to withdraw when things get tough rather than let anyone know how she is feeling. When you have a quiet child with autism it is difficult for education staff to realize they have an additional need that warrants support.

My daughter was diagnosed with autism at the age of 9. It was a drawn-out process, starting with my first visit to the general practitioner when she was 7 years old. Prior to her diagnosis I have had to brunt unprofessional comments from teachers and therapists who provided conflicting advice, questioned my parenting and assured me my child showed “no signs of autism.” I know it isnt these professionals’ faults. There is little understanding of how girls with autism present themselves.

What seemed to be misunderstood the most was that while my daughter held it together at school, her frustration would build to a point where by her emotions were uncontainable at home. Not only did she melt down daily, she would also hit herself and others through utter frustration. As her parent it was a difficult time for me to watch my daughter struggle with nowhere to turn for support and limited knowledge to draw from.

Thankfully once my daughter received her diagnosis the comments from professionals shifted to slightly more tactful ones. I look back at the lack of support we received throughout the diagnosis process in disbelief. But despite this negative experience I do feel it made me stronger. In having to fight to be heard, it gave me the confidence to question other people’s opinions and the confidence to advocate for my daughter when needed.

Fortunately for my daughter, we are now receiving the support that has been needed for so many years. The professionals we are now working with do mostly understand my daughter’s needs, and she has a support network in place to help her through her day-to-day.

There is no surprise that with this improved support, my daughter’s coping ability has increased. She frequently manages her emotions and works on strategies to manage her day. She is also doing more extra curricular activities both in and outside of school. But most of all, with ongoing support it is apparent that her self-esteem is increasing and she is generally happier in herself.

It is difficult to be a parent of a child who seems so misunderstood by so many. It is difficult to be put on waiting lists and have mixed and sometimes unprofessional opinons thrown at you along the way. While I was waiting for appointments for my daughter I couldn’t see an end. But now that she has a diagnosis, I am working with professionals who have a better understanding of girls with autism. At last, all of the waiting and frustrations have finally started to pay off for us, and I believe with continued support my daughter will continue to flourish, continue to achieve and continue to grow in confidence.

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Stock photo by ulkas

Originally published: November 9, 2016
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