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When your child get a diagnosis of autism, your world seems to dramatically change in the seconds before and after the words have been said. I have spoken with many parents who were simply not expecting the diagnosis when they went in for the assessment. They had an image in their mind of a severely disabled person and that simply wasn’t the case for their child.
What is the autism spectrum?
Autism is a neurological (meaning it has to do with the brain) developmental disorder. It affects how a child learns and develops in 3 main areas: social skills, communication skills and restrictive or repetitive behaviours.
Many people use the language ‘high functioning’ vs ‘low functioning’. This can be very misleading. Many people think of the autism spectrum as being a linear spectrum. This representation doesn’t quite fit the autism spectrum, because there are three core symptoms of autism. There’s a newer way of conceptualizing it, that was created by Michael of 1autismdad.com in 2012.
Imagine a blank sheet of paper with a dot in the middle. This dot represents neurotypical development (non-asd). Near the top of the page in the middle imagine the words “communication deficits”, near the bottom left of the page imagine “social skills deficits” and on the bottom right corner imagine Stereotypic and repetitive behaviours. Each person with autism will develop needs in each of these areas differently. You can visualize a person’s needs by how long the path is from the middle (neurotypical) to the core symptom. Some might be very impacted in the communication and social skills areas while they show very few (or none) stereotypic and repetitive behaviours.
Top 5 things to do when your child get a diagnosis of autism:
There are a number of resources that you can access when your child is first diagnosed. Here are my to 5 recommendations of things to do:
- Notice the small things – Your child might have difficulty with a lot of things, but try and pick out the things that your child excels at. You might need to be creative here, but it’s a good reframing exercise and will help you to focus on something positive instead of only the negative.
- Reach out to others from the autism community. There are a number of support groups on Facebook and other social media platforms. You’ll find many people who understand exactly what you’re going through and who have been through it and survived. It might take you a while to find your village, but once you do you’ll be so glad you spent the time to reach out.
- Celebrate every victory. Learning something new might be very challenging for your child. When they achieve a new milestone you should celebrate it loud and proud!
- Create a self-care routine for yourself and your partner. You will feel compelled to spend every moment focused on your child’s therapy/friends/development. You must keep yourself healthy so you can be the best possible advocate for your child. Remember the flight attendant’s advice: always put your own oxygen mask on first. You have to take care of yourself if you want to take care of others.
- Create a team for your child. There will be a lot of people in your child’s life: doctors, therapists, teachers, support workers and more. You will need help to coordinate everything that needs to happen in order to set your child up for success. Find people you trust and who have values that align with your own.
Your child is the same lovable, adorable, smart, deserving little person they were before they got a diagnosis of autism. There are times when the label is important and there are times when it is irrelevant. Try to think of the diagnosis as a path, that will lead you to treatments and strategies that will help your child. Also, having a diagnosis opens up doors for funding, supports and specialized programs.
Connect with Side by Side Therapy to discuss your options and what interventions would be best for your child and family. We offer no-charge and no obligation consultations to help guide you in making the right decisions for your child’s future.