The day has come, and for most parents it’s either a weight lifted or one that is placed upon you. For months you and your child visit with a psychologist who performs a series of rigorous tests. The days drag on, and for every parent that eagerly awaits results to confirm what they already know, there’s another parent who anxiously hides behind the denial of a soon reality. No matter which parent you are, the results are in, [insert your child’s name here] has Autism Spectrum Disorder.
1. First and foremost- today, tomorrow, next week, or ten years from now… You’re not, and never will be, alone. There’s another autism parent somewhere in the world that shares the never ending questions you have, the same hurt you feel, or the involuntary guilt that consumes you. Any parent of autism or not, feels if your child is struggling you’ll do everything to change that, even when it is simply out of your control. The truth is, whether you’re the parent who accepted autism long before the diagnosis, or the parent still struggling to find acceptance… It’s OKAY, take your time. One thing that has remained the same, that’s your child, you love them unconditionally… and you’re not alone.
2. The unplanned turns into the unexplained- time keeps ticking away but don’t live by the clock. It’s important to take the time to process how you feel after the diagnosis, especially if finding acceptance that your child has ASD is difficult. With that said, once you accept what you cannot change, keep moving. Try not to focus on what you lost down a path less traveled, the light there is dim and you won’t find it. Focus on what you can change, emphasize on the day to day and stop stressing the small stuff. Make plans but always know that autism might have conflicting reservations on that day as well.
3. Be an expert in your child, not in Autism. In the age of Google it’s very difficult to not turn into a part time CIA agent, “specializing” in Autism. Although your child may share similar traits of another child on the spectrum, each child with autism is uniquely different. Spending less time glued to google and getting to know your child and what you can do to help them, you’ll understand the infamous “if you meet one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”
4. Therapy for all. For your child with autism, finding the right therapies that work for them is a big piece to the puzzle that is autism. Work with your local intermediate unit and ask what services are available to your child. Use social media to find local groups that support parents of a child with autism. There’re many therapies for a child with autism covered by insurance; occupational therapy, speech therapy, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, social skills, sensory integration, and many more. I can’t stress enough how important contacting and working with your counties intermediate unit is, they will play a key role in your child’s development and the later placement of your child in the school district. Alongside your child, you need therapy too. We’ve all heard, “you can’t take care of someone else, unless you take care of yourself first”… It’s true, but it’s not always realistic when you have a child with autism, that needs you every second of the day. For me, if I’m not with my son, he’s at school and I’m at work. There is very little time in between for a therapy session at the doctor, getting my nails done, or even food shopping. Reading other parents blogs and writing my own has been a great and inexpensive therapy. The key is, do what works for you. Find something that allows you to process and release how you feel in a proactive and positive way.
5. Lastly, and most importantly; today, tomorrow, next week, or twenty five years from now… Give all that you are, give every piece of your heart, but give anything- but up!