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What To Do When Your Child Receives an Autism Diagnosis

What To Do When Your Child Receives an Autism Diagnosis

Guest Post By Genevieve Kane, MSN, RN

With about 1 in 36 children having autism, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s likely you know a child with autism or a family with a child with autism. And if it is your child who you suspect has autism or was recently diagnosed, it can feel scary!

What To Do When Your Child Receives an Autism Diagnosis

However, several resources and supports are available to children with autism and families of children with autism. So, if you find yourself the parent or caregiver of a child with autism, here are five things to do when your child receives an autism diagnosis.

What To Do When Your Child Receives an Autism Diagnosis

Focus on Your Child’s Strengths

If your child received an autism diagnosis, it was likely because you or someone close to the child, such as a teacher, noticed differences in their development. For example, they may not be speaking words yet or have been delayed with speaking. Or, they may be selective with which foods they eat, be sensitive to noises, and display other possible signs and symptoms.

However, it’s also likely that your child with autism has several strengths. Instead of focusing solely on where your child isn’t meeting developmental milestones at the same rate as their peers, focus on their strengths.

Your child may quickly pick up on words or phrases and have a strong memory. Or, they may learn to read early and easily or be an incredible artist. Pay attention to your child’s interests and strengths so you can work to develop those too!

Prepare To Be Your Child’s Advocate

When your child receives an autism diagnosis, it’s essential to recognize your role as their advocate. Examples of ways you may advocate for your child include:

  • Attending meetings for an individualized education plan (IEP) if your child is school-age.
  • If your child is younger, seek early intervention services privately or through your state.
  • Understanding your child’s sensory needs so you can help them navigate the day-to-day. For example, your child may need headphones to attend a summer farmer’s market where a band might be present. Or they may be bothered by the loud sound of toilet flushes.
  • If your child requires a medical procedure or visits an emergency department, let staff know about your child’s diagnosis and what they find the most difficult. Many children’s hospitals have staff members through a Child Life program who can help your child through stressful procedures.
  • Educate your friends and family on autism and normalizing coping strategies. For example, maybe you have one child who receives an autism diagnosis and needs headphones or chew items for stimming. If you have another child or other children who don’t have autism but are interested in the headphones and sensory items such as chew toys, get them their own sets if resources allow. This can help normalize coping skills for those with autism.

Autism Diagnosis

These are just a few ways you may find yourself advocating for your child with autism. As you navigate life with your child, you’ll find regular opportunities to help your child thrive.

Consider Your Therapy Options

If your child received an autism diagnosis, you may have been referred to a behavioral therapy group. While applied behavior analysis (ABA) is one therapy option for children with autism, there are several other intervention options, per the CDC.

Examples of other therapies you may consider depending on your child’s needs are:

  • Speech therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Social skills groups
  • Sensory integration therapy

When your child receives an autism diagnosis, you may find that your child requires several different therapy options. Your child might run away and need ABA therapy for safety. They may also be delayed in speech or not speak at all and require the help of a speech therapist and a social skills group tailored to their speech needs.

Understand Autism is a Spectrum

The National Institute of Mental Health emphasizes that autism is a spectrum. While several individuals may have autism, their symptoms can vary widely. For example, one person with autism may not be able to speak at all. Whereas another individual may have been delayed in learning to talk but now can do so and carry on a conversation.

Take Care of Yourself

When your child receives an autism diagnosis, taking care of yourself is crucial. Regardless of where on the spectrum your child is, they will likely need extra help and support from their parents or caregiver throughout their life.

Any parent or caregiver needs to practice self-care. But if your child has received an autism diagnosis, it adds another layer to being a caregiver.

Ideas for self-care and support can mean joining a local moms or parents group for children with neurodiversity,  such as autism. Or, it can look like remembering to exercise, eating healthy foods, taking a walk, or getting a massage. When you take care of yourself, you set yourself for the best version of yourself.

Autism Diagnosis

Looking for more about what to do when your child receives an autism diagnosis? You’ll find these helpful: 

Key Takeaways

If your child receives an autism diagnosis, you may feel several different emotions. It can feel daunting to set up therapy appointments for the first time and determine your child’s needs. Your child’s healthcare provider is a good place to start for referrals and the best next steps.

It’s important to remember that through it all, you are your child’s best advocate. While they may need therapies to attain specific skills, also focus on their strengths. And lastly, it’s crucial to fill your cup up, too, and carve out time for yourself so you can be the best version of yourself for your child.

Genevieve Kane, MSN, RN, is a mother of four and a registered nurse with a background in pediatrics. When she's not working, you can find her cooking up tasty family dinners or keeping up with her kids on a hiking trail in her home state of Colorado.

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