Recently, I had someone tell me that their child was just diagnosed with Autism. They just felt like, ok…, now what? I started to think about it and realized this was something really important to think about and talk about. How are you supposed to know what to do when your child is diagnosed with Autism? Especially when you are feeling a bagillion emotions. So I stopped and put some thought into this….This is what I came up with.
There are so many parents out there that are in one of these 2 situations when their child has Autism:
- You are aware of your child’s difficulties but they do not yet have a diagnosis for them. Maybe you are on the waitlist for an evaluation or you have just started to suspect specific difficulties that your child is having in comparison to his or her peers.
- Your child has been evaluated and given a diagnosis and you either
- Don’t know where to start or…
- You have tried some things, but you are not quite sure if they are the right things and if you are on the right track
Where ever you are with your situation, there can be so many emotions. And often times there are a lot of emotions happening all at once. Maybe you’re feeling feelings of fear, anxiety, or guilt.
Maybe you are feeling ill equipped, angry, or frustrated. If we are being real, sometimes we might even feel embarrassed when our child does things that is not expected behavior or when we feel judged by family or friends.
Maybe in some ways, if you did just get a diagnosis for your child, you are feeling a sense of relief that now you know your child has autism. A relief that your suspensions and gut instincts were validated. No matter what, all of those feelings can make anyone feel overwhelmed. In a place that can make it hard to know where to even start.
Just so you know, you are not alone in these feelings…I hear about how other parents in the same situation are having those exact same feelings too. ALL….THE….TIME… yet, when we are going through them ourselves it can feel like a lonely place.
To be perfectly honest, I still have these feelings at times and my son is 12 years old. Those feelings of being overwhelmed were by far the most when he was younger, but I find that I still have them even now.…I definitely know that IEP meetings are a big trigger for me.
It’s during these meetings that I seem to sit in all of the emotions of if I am doing enough to help him and all of his difficulties are all placed in front of me at the same time. At least this was true until the last year or so…now I recognize those thoughts that led to the emotions that weren’t really serving me and am learning how to encourage myself and focus on the important things.
When I say I am learning, I truly mean that…it really is a journey.
So this leads us to what I wanted to focus on today….we are in one of the two situations that I talked about initially, we are having 1 or more emotions that I mentioned above, and we just need some direction about where to go and what to do.
I have some great news for you though!
The good news is that there are steps that you can take that will make a huge difference in you life and your child’s life. But don’t forget that your situation is unique to you and your child, no one will have the exact same journey as you will.
I don’t want you to think of this idea like you are along on this journey, because that simply is not true. I do want you to realize that you will have to problem solve and adjust as you are on your journey. I’m telling you this because I don’t want you to be on a search for a manual for your child in the piles and piles of resources that are out there.
I don’t want you to have shiny object syndrome, by just running after every possible intervention and trying to do it all.
But, I’m not just going to tell you what not to do. I am going to tell you what to do instead. For simplicity, I grouped these ideas into 3 steps.
3 Steps When Your Child Has Autism
1. Sit with your thoughts.
I think too often we just want all of our hard emotions to just not be there anymore….We all have our different fixes. Sometimes its eating chocolate (I should raise my hand to this one for sure), sometimes its shopping, sometimes it’s spending too much time on social media….the list could go on and on.
We don’t usually have a difficult time trying to avoid those hard emotions. But I cannot stress enough how important it is try to understand what feelings you really are experiencing and trying to understand them. Like I have already previously stated, this is going to be ongoing, but it really will make a world of difference in how you parent your child and how you manage stressors in general.
With this said, ongoing self care is ABSOLUTELY necessary. I really cannot stress this enough! Please check out other episodes about managing stress with this podcast and there will be more coming in later episodes about this because it is such a huge thing…and why it has to be a first step.
2. Be intentional.
Figure out what the resources are in your area AND have an honest look at your weekly schedule. Don’t forget that it is a marathon, not a sprint. You will need to prioritize.
3. Educate yourself!
Observe your child and see things through their eyes. Learn from any of the professionals that you are bringing your child to. Ask questions. Ask for resources. Pay attention to what they do and why. If you aren’t quite sure why they are doing something, ask! Start reading and taking classes. My favorite books are: Autism Breakthrough by Raun Kaufman, Uniquely Human by Barry Prizzant, and The Out of Sync Child by Carol Kranowitz. The very best thing that you can do for yourself and your child is to empower yourself.
Make sure to grab my free audio training by clicking HERE to give you an idea of how to build some developmental activities into your day when you are ready.
To really sum up everything in terms of my thoughts about where to start…it would really be to start with showing love to yourself by making sure that inner coach in your head is cheering for you and letting you know that you totally got this (because you do) and to embrace the amazing child that you have.
All of their characteristics are what make them a special, unique and amazing individual. Welcome to an amazing journey of parenthood that will push you outside of your comfort box and grow you in ways that you never could have imagined!
Candice Curtis is a licensed Occupational Therapist and the founder of Integrate Family. She is passionate about helping and empowering parents and their children. Candice has advanced postgraduate training in theory, assessment, interpretation and treatment in Ayers Sensory Integration. She is a Certified Autism Specialist with expertise in sensory processing, coordination disorders, learning disorders and executive functioning. Candice also has 2 boys of her own at home, one of which is Autistic. Learn more about her here.