Whether you've suspected autism in your child for some time now or the diagnosis comes as a shock, it's important that you take the right steps to put life in order for everyone in your household, including yourself. The following five suggestions can help you and your child understand more of what's going on and how to move on from the diagnostic stage to a happy and healthy routine.
1. Don't Expect Your Child to Fit a Diagnosis Exactly
It's understandable that you expect a doctor to list the symptoms and experiences you will encounter with autism, but it doesn't always work that way. Some symptoms which are common in other kids might not show up in yours and vice versa. While it's important that you educate yourself as much as you can on the condition, even becoming an expert will not allow you to understand and predict everything that's going on with your child.
2. Join a Parental Support Group Right Away
Autism can be exhausting physically, but it might also leave you feeling isolated because other parents and kids have no idea what you're going through. Listening to the voices of experience and learning from what they've gone through can help you immensely. Finding your place in a parental support group means discovering new sources of practical advice and companionship. You'll be listened to and feel like you really belong.
3. Seek Counseling for Structured, Professional Help
Autistic counselors go above and beyond the medical solutions to autism and treat your child with dignity, respect, and individuality. They can design a specific program for your child that's based solely on what they need to learn, grow, and adapt. This can be a place your child looks forward to going because there are known expectations, customized ways of learning, and communication with a feeling of safety and familiarity.
A counselor can also offer you advice on how to develop programs, structure activities, and come up with other important solutions at home, where you likely need them most.
4. Stick to a Schedule With Your Autistic Child
Especially immediately following a diagnosis of autism, you might instinctively want to rush your child from place to place, desperately searching for answers and help to your emerging challenges, but that's not always the best course of action for your child. Consider sticking to a normal routine, with as few interruptions as possible. For them, too, new feelings of uncertainty and confusion may abound; thus, as you continue your quest for answers, try and maintain a normality around the home.
5. Keep a Journal of Your Child's Progress and Specifics
Because autism can be so complicated and varies between individuals, keeping a journal will help you learn more about patterns of behavior and what might be causing them. For example, some autistic children are hypersensitive to sound or light or other environmental variables, which may explain why your child acts a certain way in a given situation. Keeping a journal will clearly identify the situations you may wish to avoid or to work on together in counseling.
While a diagnosis of autism can be overwhelming, learning more and being directly involved in everything that goes on with your child will help. Take the steps needed to get from where you are to where you want to be, including reaching out for help from a professional counselor, other parents of autistic children and your pediatrician.
After developing a chronic physical illness, I soon began realizing that the disease plagued my mind almost more than it did my body. While my illness is not life-threatening, it was very difficult accepting that I would have to take medication for the rest of my life and eat a strict diet. After a year of depression, I finally overcame my fear of "exposing" my feelings to others and made an appointment with a mental health counselor. With her help, I was able to see the "silver linings" in life that I had greatly taken for granted before I became ill. I now encourage anyone who is battling an illness of any type to seek the psychological help they need. I plan to post lots of little mental health tips and tricks on my new blog along with advice for choosing a good counselor. Please come back soon!