When you finally receive an autism diagnosis for your child, it can be overwhelming. Suddenly your world is filled with therapies, specialists, IEP meetings and more. You’re dealing with eating struggles, judgment, and fighting with the school about inclusion. It can feel extremely isolating, and it can feel like none of your mom-friends really understand what you’re going through. So what can we do about keeping friendships after an autism diagnosis?
This post is a part of the Autism A-Z Series for Autism Acceptance Month, and you can find the rest of those posts here. I’m also still hosting my Fundanoodle Fundraiser event, so be sure to get your orders in to support the Autistic Self Advocacy Network! And back to the topic at hand..
Keeping Friendships After an Autism Diagnosis
Communicate With Your Friends
Most of your friends will be really afraid to say the wrong thing, so they won’t say anything. That’s why it’s up to you to start the conversation. Explain what autism is and what you’re going through. Talk with them about ways that they can support you and your child. I’ve found that the quickest killer of friendships is to expect them to read your mind.
For example, my best friend is one of those people who tells it like it is. She’s that friend that will tell you when maaaaaybe you should go up a size in that dress or if you’re completely overreacting over something tiny. So when I need to just vent, I tell her that. “I just need to complain about this, don’t tell me that I’m wrong”. It’s as simple as that. With your friends, maybe it’s as simple as saying, “I know it seems small to you, but I need to celebrate that we had a grocery store trip without a meltdown”.
Try Not to Compare
This one can be really hard, especially when your world seems so chaotic, but try not to compare your life to the life of your friends. When they are complaining about their child throwing a fit while you’re recovering from a morning full of meltdowns, let them vent. When they’re celebrating their child’s spelling test while you’re praying for your child to talk, celebrate with them. It’s hard, I know. But it’s so important to understand that while autism may have taken over your whole life, it likely hasn’t taken over your friends’ lives. Let their wins and struggles be just as valid as your own, and do not compare.
Set Up Reminders
When you have four therapies a week, plus meetings, plus doctor appointments, and everything else that comes with an autism diagnosis, it can be hard to remember the last time you ate. Before you know it, you’ll take a moment to think and realize you haven’t seen your friends in weeks. Set up reminders to take some time for the most important friends in your life.
Maybe it means that you have a weekly playdate with them. Maybe it’s as simple as making sure you text them for a few minutes each day to catch up. Set a reminder in your phone, write a sticky note, or do whatever you need to make sure you keep your friendships a priority.
Be Patient, and Ask Your Friends to be Patient
Some seasons of life you just won’t have as much time to grab coffee or gab on the phone. Be patient with yourself and understand that it’s okay if you have to say no for a season. Ask your friends to be patient with you as well while you figure out a new routine.
Playdates might need to look different while you are figuring out how to adjust with the new therapies and strict routines. Also be patient with your friends. They will say something wrong or offensive. They will likely hurt your feelings, and you will likely hurt theirs. Try to stay patient, and above all, have grace.
Once you get an autism diagnosis for your child, it is incredibly important to spend time keeping friendships up so that you have some people to lean on. It is overwhelming to get used to the new diagnosis and everything that comes with it. Keep your friends close during this time, even if it may be challenging.