When you first get an autism diagnosis for one of your children, it can be incredibly overwhelming. This is even more true if it’s a diagnosis you weren’t expecting. It can suddenly feel like your child, and your entire world, is different. They’re talking about therapies and insurance battles and IEPs and your head is swimming. I completely understand.
There are some things that you want to find out right away. What types of services is your child now eligible for with the new diagnosis? Do you need to fill out any forms or look into disability benefits? These are your first practical steps.
Once that’s out of the way, here are some of the things that are less obvious as you’re walking out of the Dr’s office that I wish I had known ahead of time.
After The Autism Diagnosis
It’s Okay To Feel However You Feel
Sweet mama, it’s okay to feel however you feel, and it’s okay for those feelings to change day by day and even hour by hour. One minute you might be relieved that after the hours and days or even months spent fighting for your special needs child, someone finally started listening. The next you might feel stressed over all of the new responsibilities that come with autism.
You might feel ready to tackle the world one day and the next be ready to give up on everything. All of it is okay to feel, I promise. We all go through all of these waves. The crazy swings of feelings calms down a bit as you go along, but there will always be days where you feel stressed, overwhelmed, and ready to give up. Luckily, they get to be fewer and farther between. I promise.
There Are Benefits To Autism
I know that it can seem hard to believe at first, but there are definite upsides to having autism. Our kids see the world in a beautiful and unique way. So often the doctors and therapists that we see focus so much on the negatives. They focus on delays in language or the difficulty with eye contact, but rarely will they bring up how children with autism are often also gifted academically.
They won’t tell you that while it may be difficult for your child to say hi to the cashier at the grocery store, they may be able to add up your total quicker than the computer can. Many celebrated people from history are suspected to have had autism. Now, that is not to say that all children with autism will excel in math. All people with autism have unique gifts and talents, just like all people in general.
So mama, try really hard not to focus on all of the negatives that could potentially come with autism. Continue to dream about the person your child will become. An autism diagnosis will not tell you what your child will or will not grow up to do.
Think About How You’re Acting/Speaking Around Your Child
Learning about your child’s autism diagnosis is huge. It hits many parents like a ton of bricks, and like I said before, it is okay for you to feel whatever you feel. Please watch how your feelings might be effecting your child, though. Doctors, therapists, and even friends and family can often focus on you during this time. How you’re handling the diagnosis, which therapies you’d like to start, how you can help adjust to this new life.
Something to keep in mind is that you aren’t really the one receiving the diagnosis, your child is. Often the special needs community can focus too heavily on being a parent of a child with special needs. And, unfortunately, this can put us at odds with adults with the disabilities our children have. When we say things like, “I love my son, but I hate his autism”, demand person first over identity language, or throw support behind organizations like Autism Speaks, we are communicating to our kids that there is something inherently wrong with their disability.
It’s okay to grieve over your child’s new diagnosis, but when around them try to keep it focused on the positives. This diagnosis helps explain how to better help them. It is a part of who they are and a part of what makes them special.
Mama, I know how overwhelmed you must feel after getting the diagnosis, especially since this is only the beginning. Please know that you can now be surrounded by this amazing special needs community, and we are all ready to support you!
There are days you will feel like you have this whole autism thing down, and there will be days that you feel like one more sensory melt down is going to have you throwing in the towel. We’ve all been there, and we’re all still growing. Just know that your child is the same today as they were yesterday, and as hard as things may get, you’re in for a wonderful adventure!
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