Diagnosis of a medical condition that can be cured is not so bad. A diagnosis of a developmental condition like autism, however, is not as easy to deal with because there is no immediate cure and solution!
First, however, let us define autism. Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects language development and communication, social skills and behavior. In other words, autism makes a person stand out as different and antisocial, and most times, weird!
For a parent who has loads of hopes and dreams for his or her child, a diagnosis is like a death sentence. All the grand plans for the child’s future disappear in an instant. Everything has to be planned again from scratch.
Let us now look beyond the diagnosis. Once you have the news, what should, or more importantly, should you NOT do? What are the things you should not dream of doing if you intend to get through this challenging phase of life?
Autism is a challenge, yes, but not the end of the world. Don’t panic when you get a diagnosis. Instead, take time to find out about the condition from the internet, online and physical support groups, and even from educators around you. A child with autism always has something special in them that they have to offer the world, something that you will not see if you get all panicky. Take a step back and take your time to understand what this condition means for you and your family, and let them know that though things will change, you will all get through it.
Every parent wants their child to get well when diagnosed with an illness, right? It’s the same for many autism parents. They want to see the condition disappear so that their kids are normal again. Well, even with the most intensive of interventions, an autistic child will always remain autistic. What you need to do, therefore, is to help your child learn to cope with the world around him or her, i.e. become independent. Once the child is independent and able to meet the world on their terms, the world will adjust!
Okay – we get it. Your child is different and behaves differently from all other kids, and sometimes when you go out, things get crazy. Well, the worst thing you can do is hide away from the world and hope that everything in your cocoon will work out just fine. The opposite is, however, true, because autism is very draining, especially for the caregiver.
If you do decide to take care of your child yourself, make sure you get some time out from your little one, just to catch a breather. Catch little breaks during the day so that you do not get burnt out. Walk around the block, to the shops or to the park with your child. Take little trips in the car when you can. Go to church. Go to family functions. Don’t lock your child away – he or she needs to know there is a world out there, and how to deal with it. Also, don’t lock yourself away – you will burn out before you know it. Ask for help, get a babysitter, or take turns taking care of your child with your spouse or a close family member. If you can, take your child to a special or integrated school, or get a home therapist or tutor so you can get on with life.
With every new ‘disease’ comes a new cure! The same is true for autism – there are so many cures and interventions being peddled all around the world, targeting desperate parents who want to see their kids get better. Granted, some of these interventions do work. The challenge is, however, how do you know what will work for your child?
Get informed. Read up on every kind of intervention available and get reviews to find out if they really work. Speak to your pediatrician, neurologist, occupational therapist and speech therapist to find out what approaches to autism exist out there, and which ones actually work. Most importantly, don’t rush to get into a certain kind of treatment just because all those around you are jumping into it. What works for another child may not work for yours.
To the newly diagnosed parent – all is not lost. Autism is not the end of your child’s life, but the beginning of an exciting journey of discovering how differently talented minds work, and finding out what specific area your child is gifted in. Don’t give up on your child – you may just be raising the next inventor, musical prodigy, or computer wizard in your home – an opportunity you do not want to pass up on!