For some parents, the journey to, and through, autism diagnosis is lengthy. For others it happens relatively quickly. Some parents receive fabulous packages of support, other parents are left wondering ‘what next?’. So for those unlucky parents who have not been supported, here are my ten top tips for parents following an autism diagnosis:
- Accept your emotions
It is normal to experience a range of emotions following your child’s diagnosis. From anger to guilt to denial, your emotions may change from day to day as you come to terms with the news. Don’t feel bad, ignore or try to cover them up. Accept them, accept they are normal and accept in time they will pass.
2. Recognise different people have different feelings
Just as it is normal for you to experience a range of emotions, it is normal for others too. Emotions don’t follow a set pattern or timescale. It can be difficult if your partner or other close family members are experiencing emotions that are different to yours. Sometimes these conflicts in emotional states can lead to anger and disagreements. Try to remember that sometimes those who are close to you may not be emotionally able to give you support, and seek support (see below) from others if needed.
- Seek out some emotional support
Bottling up your emotions isn’t good, talking to someone else will help. You are going to need to talk about this to someone, at some point.
Friends and family may be a good source of emotional support, or you may find local parent support groups useful. If you are finding it difficult to come to terms with your feelings, talk to your GP about accessing counselling support. This may also be available through your employer.
Whichever way, make sure you have someone to talk to.
- Get trained
When you are ready, learn all you can about autism. Parenting an autistic child is going to require some new skills and understanding from a different perspective. Without doubt you will need read, get a mentor or undertake training to increase your understanding. This understanding will help you make decisions, deal with problems and support your child to grow and develop. Don’t see accessing training or support as a sign of weakness or being a poor parent, just like professionals need training in autism so do parents.
- Make time for yourself
Parents of autistic children experience significantly high levels of stress. It is really important for you to take some time out, time for you to relax.
Easier said than done? Review your weekly tasks, commitments and responsibilities to see where you can save or recycle some time. Make it a priority, plan it, timetable it and take it.
- Only take advice from experts
Seek advice from people who are qualified to give it. You wouldn’t seek personal fitness training advice from an exercise-phobic friend would you? And you wouldn’t seek advice from a professional who wasn’t trained or experienced would you? The same applies to autism, take advice from people who have either been in your shoes (other parents of autistic children can be a great source of support and advice) or professionals who have specifically been trained, or are experienced, in autism.
- Don’t let ignorance affect you
Many parents have negative experiences with members of the public who are ignorant to autism. Whether judgemental looks, negative comments or offering unhelpful advice – the attitudes of a few can leave a lot a lot to be desired. Develop a tough skin and try not to get upset by the ignorant few, their opinions don’t matter.
- Don’t compare
Your child is wonderful and your child is unique. They will develop in their own way, and will have different strengths and challenges – as do all children. Don’t compare your child with others. Whether siblings, classmates or family members, every child does things in their own way and comparing yours to others will not help you or your child.
9. Invest in a personal profile
All children are different, and whilst autistic children have differences in key areas they are unique in their strengths and difficulties. Understanding this pattern of strengths and difficulties is key to understanding the support your child needs. You should have been advised of your child’s ‘pattern’ in the form of a ’personal profile’ at the point of diagnosis. If you don’t have a personal profile, invest in one. Either invest some time in developing one yourself or in seeking help from the professionals who support your child to create it. If you don’t feel able to do this, seek out a professional who can. A profile will help to ensure everyone who supports your child is doing so in the way that best meets their needs.
Remember to review and update this as your child grows.
- Finally, find your strength
Have confidence in your ability. You are amazing and you can do this!
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.