An autism diagnosis is nearly always a challenging event for the family of those who are diagnosed. Often, it is especially difficult for the parents of those diagnosed. Knowing what to think and how to react to the news that your child has autism is not always clear.
With that in mind, we've compiled a set of toolkits for family members, to help you cope with and adjust to the news, and create a supportive environment for the child.
Common reactions to getting the diagnosis
Shock - Parents often feel shock from receiving an autism diagnosis, including feeling stunned or confused, or overwhelmed by the prospect of caring for your child.
Sadness - Many parents feel a sense of mourning over their previously held hopes and dreams for their child. There are going to be times when you feel extremely sad, but feeling sadness can help you move on and grow, and you should not feel ashamed of your sadness.
Anger - Anger is normal, and we end up taking it out on those closest to us. It is important to recognize that anger is a natural reaction, and that it will pass with time.
Denial - While denial is a common part of the process, pretending that your child does not have autism will not help them. Acknowledging the facts of the situation is the first step in finding an effective treatment.
Loneliness - While you may feel isolated and alone at first, many support groups and communities exist for parents of children with autism.
Acceptance - The final, and arguably most important step in reacting to your child's diagnosis is to accept your child for who he or she is, and act in their best interests by getting them the care they need.
1. Creating a plan is the key to effective treatment. For more information on how to start creating a comprehensive treatment plan, check out How to Help Children with Autism.
2. Check out local support groups, autism treatment centers, and think about visiting a specialist. In addition to learning about possible treatments and support networks and services, you'll learn what has and hasn't worked for other parents in your situation, and you'll find a sympathetic community that will offer valuable advice and support.
3. Learn how to communicate effectively with your child. Communication problems in children with autism can vary greatly, but most children will have at least some trouble communicating. Finding a system that allows your child to effectively express their needs and wishes to you is crucial in creating a supportive environment for your child.
Helping your family cope with the diagnosis
1. Explain the situation to siblings and family members. Being open about discussing your child's condition will lead to a more understanding and supportive family environment. For younger siblings and family members, remember to discuss in an age appropriate way, and acknowledge that they may not fully understand right away.
2. Encourage interaction and playing between all your children. Supervise these interactions at first, and instruct your children in the best ways to communicate with their sibling with autism, such as how to get their attention, or give instructions.
3. Find help and support for siblings who need it. If you feel your children are having trouble coping or sharing their feelings, do not wait to contact a professional who they can talk to, or explore sibling support groups such as www.siblingsupport.org
The importance of staying positive
No situation is perfect, and no situation is exactly the same as any other. Taking life as it comes and choosing to focus on the positive things will boost your morale, and give you energy to care for your child despite setbacks. Every child with autism makes progress at different rates, so its important to focus on the positive progress that your child makes, and not compare him or her to other children with or without autism. Feel good about your child's achievements, and work to improve in areas where your child isn't having as much success. Staying positive will help both you and your family deal with this tough situation.
Remember that as a parent and caregiver, taking care of yourself and your own needs is a necessary part of providing your child the best care. If you do not care for yourself, you cannot care for others well. Taking advantage of services such as respite care, which provides temporary assistance to give caregivers a break, will also help you remain positive.
Take advantage of new technologies
Many new and upcoming technologies are designed to help caregivers more effectively care for children with autism. Smartstones® Touch™ is just one of many wonderful new technologies for caregivers.
Autism Speaks® has a helpful web page that links to many assistive technologies and helpful tools for caregivers caring for a person with autism, available here: http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/resource-library/assistive-technology
Smartstones® Touch™ was designed to enable nonverbal communication between caregivers and the people they care for.
This article was brought to you by Smartstones® Touch™.
A revolutionary communication device that allows caregivers to locate, remind, and communicate with their kids through simple gestures and touch. Extend the connection you have with your child over a distance, by sending simple messages composed of light, vibration and sound. Comfort them, or reinforce good behavior with a message of praise. Let them know you're on your way, find them if they wander, and remind them to take medication.
To learn more, sign up for our email list below. We'll keep you updated on Smartstones® Touch™ until launch.