Steps to take after an autism diagnosis
When your child receives an autism diagnosis, the process of identifying and implementing strategies that are going to maximize his/her potential and quality of life can begin. And the sooner, the better. Here are some practical steps you can take as you embark on your journey:
Take Time to Process Information Before Making Decisions: The world of autism is just that – another world. It has its own language, a million variables, and professionals that you never thought would become a part of your everyday life. Suddenly, you’ve gone from having one set of life plans and expectations, to completely reframing your world. Carefully consider information with what you understand about your child; and then make decisions that will best serve your child and family.
Connect with Organizations that Provide the Most Current Information and Widest Variety of Resources: Connecting with reliable organizations that support families with special needs, can introduce you to options that you may not have considered; provide friendly support; and save you time, money, and frustration in the process.
Learn the Lingo: Be prepared to become fluent in a whole new set of terms and acronyms. Your ability to survive and succeed depend on it, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you catch on. Before you know it, all of those terms and acronyms will be rolling off your tongue.
Build a Strong Support System: Surround yourself with encouraging people who speak life into your circumstances - family, friends, and various professionals that will help you maintain a sense of purpose, balance, hope, and humor. This will keep inevitable voices of doubt and gloom from lingering and dragging you down.
Establish a Schedule – A schedule serves as a guide and reference point. Emergencies and unexpected occurrences will inevitability happen, so you must be flexible. But a schedule provides consistency, efficiency, and a way to prioritize and manage tasks, events, recreation, and relaxation.
Take Care of Yourself - Being there for your child requires that you take care of yourself, and is often easier said than done. Eating, sleeping, personal breaks involving your favorite activities, and time with friends help maintain a healthy well-being. This may also include a personal counselor. Sometimes an objective ear and voice is the best source of clarity and calm.
For Those Who Are Married, Be Proactive & Seek Marriage Counseling – The fact that 50% of all marriages end in divorce is an all too familiar statistic. But the percentage of marriages that end in divorce where there is a child with special needs is estimated at a staggering and sobering 80%-90%. With this in mind, couples would be wise to address any potential or existing challenges before they become overwhelming.
Remain Open and Alert to New Developments in Your Child’s Circumstances: Everyone continues to change in various ways throughout our lifespan; and this is true for your child, no matter where they are on the autism spectrum. Abilities, preferences, interests, perspective, understanding, physicality, and health are all subject to change. Be prepared to explore new opportunities or avenues of assistance to address those changes.
Allow the Journey to Change You for the Better: Autism parents have a unique opportunity to develop those attributes that are most cherished in human beings - love, humility, gratitude, courage, resiliency, humor, patience, grace, mercy, wisdom, discernment, and forgiveness. We can’t be perfect, but we can still be extraordinary; and the world is watching and inspired by us.