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8 Things to Keep in Mind When Your Child Is Diagnosed With a Disability

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The community I was from was set up for autistic people like me to fail — it was hard to succeed in any form or fashion. Another big issue in the minority community I grew up in is that mental health was not addressed and it seemed no one believed in it. Since mental health was somewhat a myth to the community, it was a struggle I endured in my life. I’m an African American male who comes from a community where if you displayed behaviors associated with a mental illness, you were punished. At church, some of us were told to pray about it and not seek help from a mental health professional. If you seek help from a mental health professional, you are viewed as weak.

As a child I was told to, “man up, it’s all in your head, you’re making it up.” I believe it’s hard to accept a mental health diagnosis in the black community because of traditions we have been taught. Nobody in my community accepted my autism diagnosis either, and I was ridiculed for seeking help. It was not until I was 22 years old when I received help and support for my autism and other disabilities.

I don’t think I am alone in my experiences, so I composed a list to help parents. Remember you can be victorious and become an expert and advocate for your child.

1. Accept your child diagnosis.

It can be hard to accept the diagnosis. Remember it’s not your fault, you did not do anything wrong. If you accept your child diagnosis, you begin to accept your child for being who they are.

2. Learn about their condition.

Seek to understand your child’s diagnosis and ask questions regarding what to do and how to approach your child, no matter how “ridiculous” it may sound. Asking questions is the first step to understanding your child’s diagnosis and understanding your child better. Write down your questions before each doctor’s appointment or meeting, write down future questions, and get copies of all documentation physicians, teachers and therapists have regarding your child. Get a journal and record information to help you deal with the diagnosis and to refer to the answers when you need to.

3. Do research and understand.

Call a friend, seek help from a professional that deals with the condition your child has, surf the internet, ask questions, do whatever you have to do to get the information. I believe Proverbs 4:7 says it best, “Wisdom is the prime thing. Acquire wisdom; and with all that you acquire, acquire understanding.” So when you are conducting research and getting information, it is important that you understand what you are reading and what information you are acquiring. Ask your child’s physician or specialty doctor to break things down down step by step. Get familiar with organizations that are focused on your child’s condition. Like the National Alliance on Mental Illness or the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. Tim Duncan once said, “Good, better, best, never let it rest until your good is better and your better is best. Never give up until you have the information and you become an expert, there is always room to grow and improve.”

4. Find support groups.

Seek help from other parents or find a support group. A support group can help you cope when you need support. Typically, support groups are comprised of parents, self-advocates, siblings of a person with a disability, and professionals who work with people with disabilities. Learn all you can and make sure you get the best out of it. Remember you are not only helping yourself but helping your child grow.

5. Find out about services.

Services can be a challenge for children with a disability, especially for a minority child. There is federal and state legislation on programs entitled for your child with a disability. Find early intervention programs in your neighborhood or city such as occupational therapy speech, and language therapy, and much more.

6. Assess your child’s strengths and challenges.

Get help on the areas your child struggles with and praise and reinforce the strengths your child possess. For example, if your child can communicate with pictures, incorporate graphs and images for your child to build off that strength.

7. Become an expert and advocate.

Remind yourself that you are doing the best you can and remember you are doing this for your child. Learn your child’s strengths and challenges and help others understand. Learn what works for your child and help them to see your child the way you do.

8. Remain positive.

No matter how negative doctors or others may be towards your child’s condition, you can still get excited about their future. You have to remain positive and look at the brighter days ahead. Nobody is going to understand your child better than you, so be your child’s advocate and let your child be your heart and get people in your corner who value your kid. With people who appreciate your child for who they are and who want to help your child succeed you can build a group of support so you all can stay strong and remain positive.

Getty image by DisobeyArt

Originally published: May 8, 2019
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