Raising a child with special needs presents many unique challenges, and many parents and family members may struggle with a child’s autism diagnosis. Though there are no quick fixes or easy answers, we share some advice to help you and your family cope with the news.
Listen to your emotions
When your child receives an autism diagnosis, there is no such thing as a “wrong” way to feel. You have been given news you weren’t expecting, and reorganizing your thoughts and plans for the future takes time and patience. You are allowed to feel shocked, sad, angry, frustrated, hurt or any number of emotions you experience. There is no “right” route or “correct” way to deal with your new situation. All you can do is accept how you feel and try to address your emotions as they come.
When raising any child — but particularly one with autism — it is crucial to know what your supports are. Who can take your child off your hands when you need a breather? Which friend can you turn to when you need to express the entirety of your emotions? What are the strengths of each member of your family? It’s important to remember you aren’t alone. By answering these questions, you can start to create a support system within and around your family so you know a helping hand is always just a phone call away.
Learning your child has autism can be exhausting both mentally and physically. But some parents find that taking action helps. Learning such news can cause you to feel like a victim, and feeling that way can be very upsetting. By getting actively involved in your community and learning what assistance is available to your child, you may experience a new wave of confidence that comes with taking control of your situation. Visit treatment centres in your area to see what programs and services are available to you. Ask your doctor or other autism professionals for more information or to answer any questions you may have. Also consider joining a support group where you can talk to parents in a similar situation.
Cut yourself some slack
It’s only natural that you want to be the best parent you can be. But every parent experiences ups and downs when raising a child. The best way you can cope is by scheduling time just for yourself at least once a week. Whether that’s a brief facial or a dinner with the girls, give yourself something to look forward to that is completely unrelated to parenting. Your body and mind need a break, and when you allow for that time off, you’ll be all the better for it.
Give it time
An autism diagnosis is not something you come to terms with overnight. You will learn more about how to adapt and cope with each passing day. The important thing is that you should never feel alone in your journey. Parents and family members everywhere are going through a similar situation, so don’t be afraid to reach out and find the support you need.