You likely know you must be ready for anything as a parent, but you probably thought of your little one coming home with a frog or them drawing on the walls. Many parents may not have anticipated their kids being on the autism spectrum. You might not know what to do after receiving the diagnosis.
Having a child with autism will have its beautiful moments and challenges — just like any other kid. They may just need some adjustments around the house and school to be comfortable and live their best lives. Here are five tips for processing your child’s autism diagnosis.
Do Your Research
After receiving the diagnosis, you probably have a lot of questions. Parents who have worked a lot with neurodivergent children may feel prepared, but for those who are new to the situation, there are plenty of questions you can ask doctors to learn more. Know this is not something you should seek to “cure” your kid of — it’s something they will need accommodations for throughout their lives.
You may also have preconceived notions about people with autism from the media. By reading parent blogs and talking to specialists, you’ll learn these are often stereotypes or exaggerations. Your child won’t act like every other kid with autism because it is a beautiful spectrum. Doing research through multiple avenues will help you break down your expectations and learn what your little one may need.
When you first receive the diagnosis, learning about what it means for your kid is essential. However, there are nuances to every part of the spectrum. You must educate yourself on what assistance your child may need. For example, they may benefit from physical therapy if a doctor diagnoses them with Rett syndrome.
You’ll also need to know how to accommodate their sensory and stimming needs. Perhaps the lights in their room are too bright or the texture of their clothing completely repulses them. Again, these occurrences are not something they will eventually get used to — they will require changes. Your kid may be able to express this to you, but if you notice something is making them uncomfortable and they can’t verbalize it, your specialist and other parents can help.
Look up School Accommodations
There will need to be changes at your little one’s school for them to thrive there. As you now know, they experience the world a bit differently, which may call for some adjustments in the classroom. The teacher may structure their assignments in a way that makes them challenging for your child or the hum of the vent next to their seat could make it impossible to focus.
To do their best, they may need extra time on classwork, a different seat in the room or even an aide to assist their learning. They may also need more breaks or a few fidget toys to help them stim when they need to. Looking at school accommodations could also teach you what they might need around the house. School staff may also be able to help, so talk to them about the diagnosis and see what they have to say.
Prepare for Meltdowns
The meltdown someone with autism experiences is much different from a typical toddler tantrum. You know children will sometimes get very upset when they have to leave the park or not get a toy they want. However, a meltdown is not any of this — they are complete sensory overloads that cause your little one to lose control of themselves.
Meltdowns are not something to punish, but a situation your kid needs help with. They often need a safe place to retreat to and calm down. These occurrences are incredibly distressing for the one experiencing them, so you have to discover what their triggers are, how best to prevent them and what to do during a meltdown. Remember — your child is not doing this to get what they want, but is reacting to being completely overwhelmed.
Join a Support Group
Filling your mind with all this new information is understandably stressful. You want to do the best for your little one, but worry their recent diagnosis may make your best feel like not enough. Because every person with autism is different, you may find it challenging to identify their triggers and learn how to help them. In short, you could start to feel very alone and burnt out.
Support groups are excellent for managing these feelings. Not only will you meet people who know just what you’re going through, but you can get advice from them and have a place to vent when you need it. Making friends in these gatherings can be a significant advantage for your mental health and your child’s life. If you need help learning about your kid’s diagnosis, a support group will be there to help.
When you first learn your kid has autism, it can be a lot to take in. Where do you even begin? These five tips for processing your child’s autism diagnosis help you break down what they may need, how you can accommodate them and how to take care of both of you.
The final key to this process is acceptance. Your kid needs some extra care and that’s okay — it’s nothing to be ashamed of. They’re still your beloved child and there’s no “curing” the help they may need. To fully address the diagnosis, you must acknowledge it and prepare for the way it will change both of your lives.