You had your suspicions, but you weren't positive what your child was struggling with and to what extent. You maybe noticed that there was a delay in speech, or perhaps they had one too many angry outbursts when things did not go according to schedule. You might have been worried about friendships since your child didn't seem to be making any. You did your research, and decided to look into getting your child assessed. Your doctor or a mental health professional tells you, "Your child is on the Autism Spectrum", and things either start to make sense or become more scary.
This is one of many experiences that parents have when they are learning their child's diagnosis. There can be a huge range of emotions that may seem very overwhelming. They may range from worry to sadness. Some people may feel a little relief that there is an answer. Others may feel as if their child has just been sentenced to death. The finances involved in the amount of therapy can be devastating, especially since fighting with insurance companies can be time consuming. But you do it because you love your child. You become so devoted to their well-being, that you may sometimes forget to take care of yourself. When was the last time you ate a full sit down meal? Or had a date night with your significant other? These things may seem impossible to do right now, and you may feel selfish for doing them. The truth is, if you don't take care of yourself, your patience will be thin, and you won't be able to handle all of the things that come your way to the best of your ability. This can be scary, but it is not a death sentence. You have resources, you just may not know that you do because it is a brand new experience. Did you know how to be a parent when you first became one? Of course not! You had to learn - and you are still learning a long the way. So this is just another learning experience. You will learn how to help your child communicate. You will learn how to help them help themselves. Some things to remember along the way....
1. If you are skeptical, get another opinion. It's okay to get your child assessed again.
2. Make sure you give yourself enough time to feel. Be sad. Be angry. Be scared. Whatever the emotion - feel it. Work through it. Get support. It's okay to get your own therapy or support group. This is something that is really difficult to do on your own.
3. Make a plan. Do your research. There are so many options including ABA home therapy, DIR Floortime, the Son Rise Program, and community based programs. There are books you can read, and things you can do at home to help support whatever program you choose for your child.
4. Make sure that whatever treatment you choose, you give your child enough time to be a child. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in getting them the help they need, that we just keep scheduling things into their day. Your child may be different, but they are still a child. Give them time to experience childhood.
5. Take time out of your day to be you. It can be easy to only be a mom or a dad, because when you are focused on your child you forget you have other roles. You are also wife/husband, a friend, a daughter/son, a worker, a student, etc. Take time to be in those other roles. It's really important so that you can remember life isn't always about a "diagnosis". It's also about having fun, spending time with friends/family, and enjoying yourself.
Of course this is all easier said than done. If there is only one thing you take from this, I do want you to remember number two. It's probably one of the most important. Get support. You are not alone.