Hearing that your child has Autism is not easy for any parent. It can be especially hard on new parents hearing your child has Autism at a young age. You may feel like you did something wrong, or question yourself, what could you have done to prevent it? It is important to remember that there is no cause for Autism at this time, but there are links to genetics and unknown environmental factors (Szatmar & Jones, 1998). It is important to remember that this diagnosis does not define your child, it just tells us that they learn differently, and we may have to change the way we teach them. Here are some tips for newly diagnosed parents:
1. Take time to process your emotions
After hearing this news, it’s important to take time to process this new diagnosis. Remember that its not your fault. Take time to process all the emotions you may be feeling and remember that it is ok to grieve and feel sad. Prepare yourself to be busy in the beginning, sort of like preparing for a marathon. Autism is a life long disorder and many young children can continue to have Autism in their adult lives. By taking time to process that your child has Autism will help prepare you for the road ahead.
2. Find service providers in your area, communicate with other families
Talk to your child’s pediatrician as well as other families in the area for service providers available in your area. Through IDEA part C, your child may be eligible for Early Intervention Services as well. It may be beneficial in the beginning for your child to receive more services to help him/her increase their skillset. For example, your child may benefit from receiving ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy or physical therapy depending on their areas of need. Having your child in intensive therapy at a young age, say 2, will benefit them in the long run with brain development and retention of skills. Its important to remember that you are not alone. Seek other families through support groups to work together on finding resources in your area and being a support for one another.
3. Keep track of what’s working and what’s not
Once your child has started receiving on going treatment, it is very beneficial for you to work with their therapists and service providers to continue the learning in between therapy sessions. Keep track of what is working and what is not working and seek advice from them during the sessions. Engage in role play with them so that you are able to practice and receive their feedback on how to improve your skills with responding to behavior, helping your child increase their communication and social skills. One thing to keep in mind when keeping track of how your child learns best, is to not compare them to other children. Your child is still an individual, not a diagnosis. They may just learn differently, and with the help of therapy such as ABA therapy, your child will be able improve their skills.
4. Be prepared to change your behavior
An important part of the therapy process is helping your child generalize the skills they have learned. At Within Me Therapy, LLC, we have an embedded parent practice program where parents are taught pertinent skills needed to help their child continue the learning process across all environments, people and events. With this, it may mean that your behavior may change. For example, if your child usually engages in crying to gain your attention, using evidence-based interventions, you may be taught how to help your child engage in functional communication such as using words or sign language to communicate their wants and needs. This may mean that you no longer are responding to crying when your child is trying to request but are redirecting them to use more functional communication.
5. Keep learning and seeking resources
With your child being newly diagnosed, it is important as the parent to continue to educate yourself on the diagnosis so that you are able to make wise decisions in the future as well as be the number one advocate for your child. By seeking resources, you are able to continue to learn as well as spread awareness and educate others about Autism and treatment options.
To get you started, here are some resources below with more information on Autism:
The Autism Waiver in MD The autism waiver, through Medical Assistance, will allow eligible children with Autism Spectrum Disorders to receive specific waiver services to support them in their homes and communities. Children who apply to the waiver are referred from the registry to MSDE in chronological order. For more information, contact Autism Waiver Registry – 866-417-3480
Autism Society Affiliates in MD
Frederick County – http://www.asafrederickmd.org/,(301) 746-8080
Harford County – firstname.lastname@example.org,
(North Chesapeake Special Needs Advocacy Group – not an affiliate of the Autism Society)
Montgomery County – http://www.autismmontgomerycounty.org
Szatmari, P., Jones, M.B., Zwaigenbaum, L. et al. J Autism Dev Disord (1998) 28: 351. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1026096203946