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So Your Child Was Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder… Now what?

As with any life-changing experience, parents may face an Autism Spectrum Disorder (also known as ASD) diagnosis in many ways. From denial, confusion, and anger to even relief in some cases, there are no wrong feelings as you process this change in your family.  However, the sooner you seek the answers and information you need, the sooner the family unit will begin a “new normal”. Here are 5 steps to help you get started on this journey with your family:

1. Ask questions

There are no insignificant questions, and chances are other families have asked the same questions. What concerns you most? Make a list of your questions as well as questions from family members and close friends. We all need notes in stressful or new situations. As you add to your ASD information, keep notes. As time goes on, you may want to refer back.

2. Understand that it’s ok to be angry and/or confused! 

This is new territory for you and your family.  Emotions may vary for each individual. There are many strategies for handling anger and frustration in healthy ways.  Don’t let negative responses and behavior take over.

3. Do your research (but don’t believe everything you read)

Research can be your friend as you and your family navigate this new chapter in your lives but be sure to use reputable sites! Here are a few I recommend:

  • MyAutismTeam is a social network where parents can connect with others for emotional support and ASD resources. You may find comfort in reading others’ stories of their ASD journeys and adventures. I like this site because it helps individuals build relationships and friendships with others who have the common thread of ASD.
  • Dads 4 Special Kids (D4sk.org) is a great source for information and stories dedicated to helping men who have a child with special needs. This group can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. With extensive parenting content being tailored to moms, it’s great to have this information available so dads may find specific resources that are tailored to them. 
  • Autismspeaks.org is a great place for parents, teachers and those diagnosed with ASD.  Here you will find many sources and information in a community dedicated to providing reputable information for everything ASD.

Lots of information out there just be selective.

4. Be aware of the “ripple effect”

When someone in your family is identified with ASD, everyone is affected in some way. Each family member will likely have questions and need support that meet their unique needs. Family counseling can be a helpful and effective way to ensure everyone’s feelings are acknowledged while you work together to get to your “new normal”.

Denial does not have healthy outcomes. Be sure to ask questions and seek answers as a family.

5. Connect with others

Connect with other families and caregivers who have been where you are. Identify your support system and, if needed, don’t be afraid to seek professional help from counselors (like me) who specialize in ASD. These relationships may give you and others in your family the answers and hope you need. Opening up about your situation may offer an opportunity for others to share. Lean in and accept support; your family will thank you!

The Big Takeaway

As your family begins to process an ASD diagnosis, it’s important to be aware of the potential impact it may have on your whole family. Be sure to get your questions answered from reputable sources and embrace the professional support and resources that are available to you.

If you continue to feel as if you are in a fishbowl of emotions because ASD is now a part of your life, request an appointment with me to begin working toward a “new normal” with your loved ones.

 

About the Author

Deena Davis is a counselor in Cedar Hill, TXDeena Davis, LPC has been a Licensed Professional Counselor since 2006 and has worked with special needs children and their families for over 20. Deena became a certified Autism Specialist in 2014. Since then, Deena has specialized in counseling individuals living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and also those with emotional disorders. She works at Lifeologie Counseling Cedar Hill and is taking new clients.