So if you are reading this your child may have just been diagnosed with Autism, so, what now??
I remember walking out of the assessment room with so many emotions bubbling inside of me that I really did not know which one to deal with first. I was afraid, not only for my child’s future but also in case I wasn’t going to be good enough or smart enough to cater to all of his needs. This obviously was not the case, I soon realised that raising a child with Autism was no different than raising any other child, you simply find what works for your little family and go with it. No parent is given a manual on how to raise any child and we are no different, yes we have different hurdles to overcome along the way, but I can promise you that you will manage them because that is what we parents do.
I would like to share with you some little things I have learnt that I wish I had of known four years ago when my son was diagnosed, I hope they will help you through the emotional process of diagnosis and make you feel a little more positive and optimistic.
There is no one to blame:
One of the things that I struggled with more than anything when my son was diagnosed was blame! I blamed myself, the doctors and anyone else I could think of for my son being this way. Some part of me needed to understand why MY baby had this and the hardest thing about Autism is that there are no answers to the question WHY?! You are not to blame, in fact no one is, you have just been blessed with a very unique child who will teach you to see the world in such a special way and although you may not see this in the beginning, one day you will understand WHY your child was born this way. Please do not waste your time blaming yourself or others as nothing you or anyone could have done would have changed this inevitable diagnosis.
For some reason most of us parents find it so difficult to accept help when it comes to our children, we see it as some sort of weakness and that we should always be capable of being on top of everything 100% of the time….. well this is how I used to feel. I soon learned that in order to be the best parent I could be I needed to accept help from my family and friends, even if it was just for my son to stay at a relatives for a night so I could sit in my pj’s all evening and get a full night’s sleep. Having a child with Autism can be mentally and physically exhausting at times, especially when the child does not have any verbal communication. Accept any help offered to you, it will make you a stronger parent in the end.
Surround yourself with positivity:
One of the biggest mistakes I made was listening to parents who had nothing but negative things to say about being a parent of a child with Autism. They gradually wore me down and made me believe there was no future for my child and that he would never lead anything close to a “normal” life. This could not have been any further from the truth, and as soon as I made the decision to surround myself with more optimistic and positive people I became a much happier and content person. I am not saying there won’t be tough days, and nights you will shed tears but never allow anyone to shed a negative light on your child’s future, as that is in you and your child’s hands and no one else’s.
Join a support group:
This is something I cannot recommend strongly enough, if you can find the right support group for you it will benefit your lives in a huge way. I can honestly say I would have been lost without the support of Autism Northern Ireland, through them I met friends in a similar position to myself, my son met friends he could relate to and most importantly I was surrounded by people who understood!
One thing you may encounter through your child’s life is ignorance, people who think your child needs discipline rather than support and understanding. My best advice to you is to totally ignore this, I have wasted so much time allowing myself to become upset by comments from total strangers, when now I see that these comments mean nothing. Your family and friends are the people who know your child and they are the people who will see the struggles and achievements you and your child make throughout life, they are the people who matter.
Although there may be tough times along the way remember this, you will be the parent who cherishes the little moments, who sheds a tear of happiness when your child tries a new food or something else so small that only a parent of a child with Autism would understand. You will never take any milestone your child reaches for granted and every one of those moments will stay so clearly in your heart and mind for the rest of your life.:)