Many parents are devastated when they hear that their child has received a diagnosis of Autism spectrum disorder. For some parents there can be a lingering fear of the future for their child. “Will my child ever have a normal life? Will my child be accepted by others? Will my child ever be able to have relationships with others?” Many of these questions remain unanswered throughout the child’s development. As a clinician, I can honestly say that I do not have any concrete answers to those questions. I can say, however, that there is hope for your child even with all of these challenges.
1. Your child is not defined by their Autism. Autism is merely a diagnosis. It does not have to be the sum and total of who they are. Your child is a complex person with a personality and ever developing mind. They also have gifts and talents that you may not be aware of now, but may become clearer in the future. Focusing on their Autism alone can cause you undue fear and stress as a parent, and cause you to put significant limits on your child.
2. There is treatment for Autism. While Autism can’t be cured, it can be treated. Applied Behavioral Analysis Therapy is the top form of treatment for children on the spectrum, and it has been shown to have very effective results. Many children who go through a ABA program are able to form social skills, better coping skills for change, as well as being able to develop necessary life skills.
3. Redefine your expectations of your child. Many parents have high hopes that their child may do something great when they reach adulthood. Some parents have a very specified picture of what they want their child’s future to look like. With a diagnosis of Autism, that picture can change dramatically. And it has to. Your child may not be able to get into Harvard or even apply to the NASA program, but they may be able to get a decent job and live independently. Your child may not be the next Albert Einstein, but they may excel at playing a musical instrument. Expectations are necessary in order to help your child grow and excel, but high expectations can only lead to discouragement, disappointment, and maybe even resentment.
4. Get support for yourself as a parent. Many parents tend to think that they are only parent with a child with autism when they first get the diagnosis, but this could be further from the truth. With the diagnosis of Autism rapidly on the rise, there are many parents who struggle with navigating their way through 504 plans for school, finding someone qualified to test their child, and scheduling doctor’s appointments with a developmental pediatrician. Fortunately for you, there are several resources and groups for parents that have a child with a diagnosis of Autism. I will be listing some of those resources at the end of this blog post.
5. Put a special focus on your child’s gifts and talents. Many children who have a developmental disability tend to struggle with insecurity about who they are and what they can contribute to the world around them. Others struggle with forming genuine friendships with others due to severe bullying, and isolation. As parents, it’s our jobs to support and love our children through their struggles and give them the encouragement that they need in difficult times. For children with Autism they may need encouragement in finding their own special nitch that they excel in to help them build confidence in themselves. This might involve a little bit of research mixed with trial and error. This might look like parents getting their child involved in special olympics, robotics, or other clubs at school.
6. You are your child’s chief advocate. Many children on the spectrum had difficulty at school mainly to not having a strong voice. This is where you as a parent step in. If your child is not receiving the necessary accommodations or help at school, then you have every right as a parent to ask your child’s principal as well as school staff about what is going on. If your child receives ABA services, then your Board Certified Behavioral Analyst can help you with advocating for your child’s needs as well by providing extra clinical support.
A diagnosis of Autism does not mean that your child can’t succeed in their own right. Fortunately, you as a parent have many different options for getting help for your child as well as help for your family through your child’s growth and development.
List of local Autism Resources:
1. Collaborative Autism Resource and Education
2. Behavioral Innovations (San Antonio location)
5522 Lone Star Parkway Building 3, Suite 101 San Antonio, TX 78253
3. Behavioral Innovations (Castle Hills Location)
11103 West Avenue, Suite 108
San Antonio, TX 78213
4. Behavioral Innovations (Dominion Location)
21727 Interstate 10, Suite 108
San Antonio, TX 78257
5. Behavioral Innovations
1401 Universal City Blvd.
Universal City, TX 78148