Hearing the words “Your child has been diagnosed with __________________, is generally no ones’ idea of great news. Yet, it also doesn’t have to be the worse news you’ll receive in your child’s life. You may feel any combination of emotions, including: guilt, sadness, anger, depression, desperation, hopelessness, resentment, loneliness, shock, denial, or have other emotions similar to these. The important thing for you to know is that all of these feelings are NORMAL. Just remember that learning to cope with the diagnosis needs to be done at your own pace.
While this is an incredibly emotional time, it is vital to create an action plan and get moving. The hard truth is that a great deal of your child’s progress is directly related to the steps you in dealing with their diagnosis. In my practice, I’ve identified a few simple steps that can help to relieve some of the stress involved. Of the families I’ve advised with these steps, those who put them into practice had many more positive outcomes than those that didn’t.
Here are the helpful tips to get you started:
1. See the individual, not the diagnosis: Your child is the same awesome being he/she was before receiving the diagnosis. Keeping this in mind first and foremost will allow you to identify your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Then you’ll be able to work from their strengths to develop new skills.
2. Get informed: Learn as much as you can about your child’s diagnosis. Not to worry, you won’t have to memorize everything; you’ll just need to know enough to ask informed questions. This will allow for clearer communication between you and those that service your child including doctors and therapists (OT, ABA, SLP, etc.).
3. Become your child’s advocate: You are the expert on your child! There are many components to becoming a great advocate for your child. One of the most important practices would be: KEEP GOOD RECORDS. Beginning this practice will save you countless hours and stress in the long run. Get a binder and a hole-puncher so that you can keep the paperwork in one place. As the binder begins to fill, you can organize it by categories.
I sincerely hope that these tips help set you up to get on your way. Together, let’s take charge of the future of individuals with Autism or other Special Needs because if we don’t do it, who will?!
Damali (Teach) Alexander