Updated: 6 days ago
Now that you have a diagnosis, you are probably feeling a mix of emotions flood in, like relief or grief, sadness or fear. You might even be overwhelmed by all the recommendations that have come along with the diagnosis. You were likely handed a long list of therapies you are left to navigate and initiate, while barely even understanding what a diagnosis like autism entails. You might have spent hours searching the internet to find some sign of hope that this is curable. Or you might have relinquished the lead to the medical professionals, who are supposed to know best.
I know it feels overwhelming. I know you want what's best for your child. So I hope this will help guide you a bit in your journey.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Let's first start with you, parents. I know you feel you need to get your child into therapy sessions as quickly as possible. I know the doctors and online research have recommended you dive right in. But, we need to start with you...your self-care, your understanding of your child's diagnosis, and your role in his future.
Self-care: You cannot help your child if you are not taking care of yourself first. Your child needs you more than any therapist or doctor. Mindfulness, meditation, exercise, diet, sleep and connection are all helpful ways to make sure you are at your best. In addition, making sure you are aware of your own level of anxiety, stress, sadness and how that impacts your child, is equally important. Take some time to care for yourself by connecting with others. Friends, family, a club or bible study group, and even a therapy session, are all good things for YOU. We all need and are made to connect with others.
Understanding your child: Your child has unique and special learning styles, sensory processing characteristics, gifts, talents and strengths. No matter what the test results show, the diagnosis says, or the professionals point out as deficits... your child has a plethora of strengths you can rely on. You already know what your child loves to do, how your child tends to learn, and what interests toward which your child veers. It's important to keep those at the forefront and spend some time learning more about how your child learns and processes his environment. These are the tools you can lean on when helping your child make navigate the world.
Your role: What role will you take in your child's therapy, education, and home program? Do you want to be hands on, understanding the theory and research behind the therapies you've chosen for your child? Or do you want the professionals to take the reigns? It is important to know early on, how much involvement you want. If you want tools to use at home, to understand why the therapists are recommending certain goals, and how best to help your child generalize what they're practicing, you'll want to be upfront about the level of involvement you desire. For example, some therapists do not welcome parents into their therapy sessions, while others do. And, Some children are able to receive multiple therapies under the same roof, benefiting from collaborative team efforts to develop a program that all services providers agree upon. Finally, you have your own goals for your child, and you are free to request that services keep those in mind as well. How much involvement you have in your child's therapy program, is completely up to you. But it's highly recommended you spend some time thinking about it in advance.
Our C.A.R.E. for Parents course was created for the above "first steps" in supporting you and your child. If you'd like to learn more about self-care, your child's unique profile and your role in your child's therapy program, click here for more information.
Not all autistic children are alike. As you have heard, the autism spectrum covers a large range of characteristics. But, most parents are given the same list of therapies to contact: ABA, Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and others. The traditional steps include evaluations completed by each of these professionals, a meeting to discuss results and recommendations, and then hours upon hours of therapies scheduled. A great therapy program may have all of these characteristics, but more is not always better. Start slow and start smart. Learn about your child, put your self-care first, and make sure you know what role you want to take moving forward.
There are no rules. If you want to jump in quickly, and schedule all possible therapies as quickly as possible, that is understandable. But if you want to take a less customary approach: slow and steady, that is also understandable. You know your child best, you know yourself best, and you have full control over how you approach this diagnosis.
If you'd like help and support through this discovery process, please do not hesitate to reach out. We are here to help!