What to do if you discover your child has autism?
This is no easy thing for a parent to hear. You have children with the hopes and dreams of sharing all the great things with them that you enjoyed growing up, and you have dreams for their futures. In one fell swoop, it feels like all of that is gone. You have a lot of mixed emotions, you have concerns about what your child can and can’t do, and you’re worried about what everyone else will think when you tell them you have a special needs child.
This is all very common, and no parent is ever ready to hear that their child has different abilities and different needs from other kids. Like our ancestors before us, we adapt. Humans are much more flexible than we like to believe and we can adjust to just about any situation if it means that we have to to survive or to learn a new skill set that we never expected to learn.
In the case of having a child diagnosed with autism, there are a hundred things you can do. If you have a hard time with it emotionally, join a support group or seek out a therapist to talk about it. If you’re not sure what kind of therapy your child needs, ask the special needs teachers at the local schools. They can help you assess your child for strengths and weaknesses and formulate a therapy plan and an education plan, otherwise known as an IEP, or Individualized Education Plan.
Do research. Read books on autism and how to cope. Read self help books, fiction, nonfiction— anything that helps you get a clearer picture of what life may be like for you, your child and the rest of your family. Check these online resources for autism.
Do form a very close bond with your child, or at least as close a bond as the child will allow. If he or she is nonverbal, becoming an expert at reading their body language will help you determine what he or she might be thinking or feeling. Be the interpreter for everyone else. If the child shows behavior problems, You might wanna try these behavior management strategies.
Advocate for your child. Parents don’t understand what this means until they have actually practiced it for some time. It means anything from disagreeing with specialists about a therapy approach to joining and autism advocacy group that raises awareness about autism and provides extra support for you and yours.
Lean on others for help. There will be days that are very challenging, and you might not get through without help. There’s no shame in asking for help when you have a special needs child. Anyone you cross paths with who indicates otherwise has no idea what they’re talking about. Reach out for financial and community supports for children with autism or discuss other mothers with autistic kids.
Take care of yourself. You can’t care for everyone else, and definitely not a child with autism, if you first don’t acknowledge yourself with a little “me” time every once in while. It’s not selfish, so don’t think it is.
Last but not least, love that child even more. Love your child with autism as though your heart would burst if he or she wasn’t in your life. Autistic children have very unique ways of viewing and experiencing the world, and it teaches the rest of us something extraordinary. Pay attention, or you just might miss it.