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What Should I Do After My Child Is Diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum?

A friend’s child was recently diagnosed with autism and she reached out with some questions for me. What would I do differently after getting the diagnosis that my son had autism, knowing what I know now? And, what did I recommend doing now for her child? Then my sister called to let me know my niece had just been officially diagnosed with autism, what should she do?

What would I have done differently?

I would have worried less about a lot of things. He couldn’t write at all when he was diagnosed at age 5. His speech was still a work in progress. When doctors asked if my son met his developmental milestones on time, I replied, “sort of.” He started learning to talk, walk and other such milestones on time. He just took a lot longer (years) to finish honing those skills compared to other children. Knowing that maturation happens at different times with different children, if I would have let myself believe that, I would have saved myself a lot of time worrying. He can write just fine now, he can talk and has a voluminous vocabulary, he can walk. His progress may be slow compared to developmental charts, but he does progress.

Now if I could just get current me to listen to old me on the “do not worry” as much bit.

What would I recommend doing?

Personally, I would get on the wait list for applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy. The wait lists are usually long, but this is the one therapy that is worth the wait and has helped the most when we could get it. In the meantime, occupational therapy (OT), physical therapy (PT), speech therapy, equine therapy and aquatic therapy depending on your child’s needs are good places to start and can be equally helpful.

Second, take the time to grieve and process the diagnosis. Know that your significant other will likely process the news completely differently than you and in their own time. Take the time to spend time and love your child. This is still your child, no matter what diagnosis the doctor throws at you. Your dreams for this child might just look a little different.

Third, take care of you. This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. You need to conserve your energy. Taking care of you means not just indulging in your favorite treat (though I do recommend it on occasion), but taking your vitamins, finding time to for prayer or meditation, seeking ways to help you grow. This is what is going to help you survive the grueling days ahead of you. This is what is going to give you the strength to continue to fight on to help your child. If you don’t take time for this, you may crash and burn. Trust me, I’ve been there.

Slow and steady wins the race.

You’ve got this.

A version of this post first appeared on An Ordinary Mom.

Getty image by Rawpixel

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