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This article is mommy approved by Miriam Slozberg, mother of two.
Parents who have just been told that their child has autism will be going through many emotions and will be grieving over the fact that the dreams for their child will unlikely manifest as the way they had imagined. However, at the same time, an autism diagnosis does not mean that new dreams or even some old ones cannot come true.
This is why parents who have just gotten an autism diagnosis for their children must take the 5 following steps in order to be on a path to acceptance and to become proactive so they can help their children to the best of their ability – as well as helping themselves.
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Process The Feelings That Come And Allow Them To Move Through
The feelings that parents will experience after getting an autism diagnosis for their children will be quite raw, and they will be dealing with a lot of sadness, fear, anxiety, and grief in general. It is important to not ignore those feelings as those are natural and parents who receive an autism diagnosis for their kids will also benefit greatly from therapy for themselves to help them get through difficult feelings that will come up.
Look Into Early Intervention, Learn ABA, And Learn Non-Verbal Cues
Aside from facing an ocean of emotions after a parent has had to find out that their child has autism, there are many new things that they must do and learn. If you are a parent who just discovered that your child has autism through a diagnosis, then the first thing to do is get your child into early intervention.
It will be costly and you may need to take out a loan to fund the therapies your child will need, and at the same time, look for programs that can help with funding. Your child will need occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, as well as applied behavior analysis or ABA therapy which will help your child become as independent and as functional as possible later in life.
You will also want to learn about how ABA works so you can practice it at home for your child. This type of therapy is highly effective for children as it is the manipulation of the environment around the child so he or she can learn new skills. What comes naturally to typically developing children as they evolve and mature has to literally be taught to children on the autism spectrum. That is what ABA therapy consists of.
Additionally, you will need to learn non-verbal cues and body language that your child will display, especially if he or she is not verbal or is semi-verbal.
Put Yourself Into Your Child’s Shoes So You Can Understand Your Child Better
The way to understand your child is to put yourself into their shoes and learn about how they process the environment much differently than you do. For instance, if your child has sensory issues that the majority of people with autism do, the child will have a meltdown due to the fact that he or she is dealing with sensory overload.
When a child has a meltdown, you will be stressed and upset and think that your child is acting out. However, a child that has sensory processing disorders will be overly sensitive to environmental stimuli which will be quite overwhelming to the child. For instance, if an overhead light you are under is bright for you, then it is that much brighter for the child which will trigger a meltdown When you are able to put yourself into your child’s shoes, you will do what you can to make the environment in the home as accommodating to the child as you can.
You will also find that your child is ‘stimming’ or doing tactics to self-stimulate such as hand flapping, spinning, jumping, or saying a single word or phrase over and over again. These are movements due to sensory needs that are increasing. Everyone stims but the way neurotypical people stim is by shaking their leg while sitting down or chewing at the end of the pencil. The difference is the way the autistic individual stims stands out more than the way a neurotypical person stims.
Get Support And Network With Professionals And Other Autism Parents
While it is advisable to get yourself into therapy which was mentioned in the first point as you will be dealing with many emotions that can be quite overwhelming, you will also need to get support from other resources. Talk to professionals such as psychologists that are geared for treating people on the autism spectrum to get advice from them. Talk to other parents who have children with autism so you can learn tips from them on how they care for their kids. You will also find that they will be a great source of support as autism parents do understand the struggles and emotions that come with raising children on the spectrum.
You will need ongoing support because you will also need to be advocating for your child a lot to make sure that he or she gets the right type of support and help needed.
Don’t Fall For Prey When It Comes To Others Selling ‘Miracles’
Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who prey on those who are in a vulnerable position. An example of this is someone who claims to be a psychic-medium coming to someone who has been recently widowed and telling them that they can talk to their deceased spouse which is what the widow or widower would want more than anything to do.
And the same goes for those who are selling ‘miracle cures’ to parents who have children with autism. They prey on their vulnerabilities and tell them that they are selling a potion or a formula that will cure them. Don’t fall for that.
In fact, the one thing that parents will have a hard time doing right after an autism diagnosis is accepting that this is the life for their child. They will not love their children any differently but they will not want autism to be in the picture.
This is why again it is important for these parents to get as much support as they can so they can reach a point of acceptance that autism is part of their child. Their child will always have autism, but with love, support, and the right type of help, the child has the potential to do quite well in life. Doing well in life will also mean adjusting the expectations that you have for your child as well.
Miriam Slozberg is a Canadian author, blogger, and mom to 2 kids. One had combined autism and ADHD. After years of trialing different forms of therapy, she learned how to best support her son. She writes on publications such as BabyGaga.com. She also is a mental health advocate as she lives with ADHD and has experienced depression.