So… you just found out your child has a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). You may feel overwhelmed and have all sorts of feelings. Now more than ever, you need the support of your close friends and family. It is not uncommon that parents in your position feel frustrated by the reactions of those closest to them when they disclose their child’s new ASD diagnosis.
This is a time when most friends and family members simply don’t know how to help you and do not know what to do. Remember ASD may be new to them. Give them the benefit of the doubt and help them to help you.
Grandparents, siblings, other relatives, and close friends may be going through a similar grieving process as you are. It is not unusual to hear, “He seems fine to me,” or “He is just like you were when you were that age!” These remarks can be infuriating, but remember these are denial statements from those who love you who are struggling with the new ASD label too. Your friends and family are most likely concerned for both you and your child. Because they are not with your family 24/7 they do not share your vision and your struggles on a day to day basis. It might take them longer to arrive at acceptance.
It can be challenging to cope with your own feelings while simultaneously convincing those close to you that the diagnosis is real. Consider telling your friends and family what you need them to do for you and how they can help. Suggest specific babysitting times so you can have some time for yourself, suggest they send over a favorite meal or run an errand, or just simply ask them to listen and not try to convince you that what your child and you are going through is not real. Ask for some time with them where you don’t talk about autism, so you can deal with your own feelings without having to worry about theirs.
Many families are comforted by the company of those who also have children with ASD diagnoses. Parents of children who are newly diagnosed often hear similar remarks from their loved ones, and it is comforting to share stories and come up with strategies to cope with situations. This is support at its finest!
Consider attending parent group meetings and subscribing to online listservs. To find them, search for family support groups in the Resource Directory of the CAR Autism Roadmap™.
Don’t forget to laugh. Situations can be quite comical, and laughter is a great stress reliever!