What happens after the diagnosis? You may feel relief immediately after you and your family receive a diagnosis. I know I was incredibly relieved after both of my daughters were diagnosed. It solidified my suspicions and took away the burden of not knowing what to do or how to help my children. Don’t feel guilty if you are relieved, it means you are free to accept whatever comes next.
Also, do not feel guilty if you are worried or afraid. This is totally normal. Finding out your child’s life will be different in some way, can be incredibly overwhelming. However you react, make peace with yourself and with the diagnosis. Do not question what you did wrong or what you could have done differently. Believe me, I have been down that road a million times.
When I, myself, was diagnosed with autism, I felt like I had somehow made my daughters autistic by association. Then I assumed that I passed on a horrible genetic flaw. The truth is, I did not cause my daughters autism. Likewise, you did not cause your child’s autism.
Autism is not a curse.
Although many people would have you believe that autism is a terrible monster to be eradicated, autism can be a blessing. I am not saying that being autistic is a walk in the park. However, we, autistics, are pretty marvelous.
Autism is a spectrum disorder. That means there are varying degrees of functionality. But, that doesn’t mean you or your son or daughter have to abide by the textbook definition of the diagnosis you or your child received. I will say it again, autism is a spectrum disorder. No two autistics are alike. We may all have similarities, but we are unique. Just because a doctor states a laundry list of symptoms, doesn’t mean you or child will have every single one.
We autistics are also not the way media portrays us.
No, I cannot tell you what day of the week you were born. No, I am not a mathematical wizard. However, some individuals with autism do have savant skills. When I was teaching special education, I had a student that had memorized all of the Terminator movies by the age of three. We often excel at things we find intensely interesting. These things might be math, but it might be toy trains or vacuums.
There are those that were originally diagnosed at the more severe end of the spectrum that have gone on to defy medical experts and have graduated college. There are also individuals at the higher end of the spectrum that suffer severe social anxiety. My point is, we are all different.
Do not box yourself in by trying to be a certain type of autistic person.
There is no specific type of autistic. We all require love and support from family and friends. We all want to contribute to society. Ultimately, one must always choose to focus on the positive. It is always easier to point out flaws and weaknesses.
Turn perseverations into strengths.
If your child loves trains, encourage them to learn more about trains. If your child perseverates on art supplies (my daughter loves arts and crafts), encourage more creativity. Today’s perseveration may become tomorrow’s career. Seek out qualified therapists. Take every opportunity available to help your child learn important life skills (grocery shopping is great for social skills and mathematics). Most importantly, believe in your child. Love and nurture your child’s uniqueness. We autistics may just surprise you. Different is definitely awesome!
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