Every parent remembers the feeling of seeing your child for the first time. Our protective instinct is never stronger than this moment when we realize we are now responsible for another human being. We know we’d do anything in our power to help our child achieve all his dreams, to be the best that he can be.
This is true no matter what happens to our child, or the challenges that he may face – even if it is an autism diagnosis. The temptation to surrender is great but our love for our child is far greater.
If you have a child with autism, you may go through the cycle of denial, fear, despair, acceptance, hope, and fulfillment, many times over. However, no matter how great the temptation to surrender, your love for your child is greater.
In my conversations with parents of children with autism, I was able to gather real-life tips on how to best handle the situation.
What is autism?
Autism is a developmental disorder. It specifically affects communication, social development, and is often characterized by restricted interests and unusual body language. It is a spectrum disorder, meaning it can range from mild to debilitating.
Seek diagnosis at the earliest possible time
Parents are naturally gifted in sensing if something is “off”. While you may go through a denial phase, it’s important to act on your observations quickly. Early intervention gives your child better chances to maximize his potential, especially during the critical windows of development.
You won’t obtain diagnosis by a single visit to the doctor. You may need a series of medical observations and laboratory testings to rule out other possibilities.
“At this stage, when you don’t know what is happening, you can really panic and think of worst-case scenarios. I remember crying every night! Let it out, but tell yourself that now your child has experts who are doing their best to help him. If you feel helpless, then make a list of what you can do: people to call, books to read, etc.” says Patty G., whose son was diagnosed with autism in 2016.
Accept – but be Proactive
Accepting the diagnosis is the key to gaining the strength to properly weigh options and arrive at better decisions. It prepares your mind and heart to consider therapies and interventions that will truly benefit your child.
Anna R. remembers feeling very angry when her son’s teacher expressed concern about his behavior and recommended bringing him to see a specialist. “I just thought she wasn’t patient enough, or he wasn’t happy in the school. My first instinct was to protect my child, but my stubbornness wasn’t helping him. When I finally agreed to therapy and a shadow teacher, that’s when I saw him improve, and regretted not listening earlier.”
After 3 years of therapy, her son is doing well in school and has a lot of friends. Diagnosis is not the end, it is the beginning of a plan that will really help your child.
Accept and seek support
Whether this is obtained from immediate family, other relatives, friends, and co-parents, support shouldn’t be construed as a sign of weakness. It is actually a way to sustain your strength, especially when times are really tough.
“Your child needs you to be strong and healthy, both physically and emotionally,” says Amanda, whose daughter was diagnosed with severe autism.
You can’t give what you don’t have. If you allow yourself to become drained or sick, you may even bring yourself closer to your worst fear: who will take care of your child when you’re gone?
Reach out to other parents and communities
Search for support groups and websites for parents of children with autism. Check out the Autism Society Philippines Facebook page and website, or AutismPinoy. Your doctor and teacher can also recommend local support groups, or introduce you to other parents.
Continue to learn
Parents who take it upon themselves to continuously understand and learn about the condition provide the best support. Aside from books and websites, attend your child’s therapy sessions and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Observe your child closely, and keep a journal so you have a record of his progress and understand what works well for him.
Most of all, says Patty G., continue to believe that your child can achieve his dreams. “Children with autism just experience the world in a different way. They may need more support in some ways, but they often have very special gifts and a God-given purpose. We just need to help them find it.”
About The Writer
Teresa Martinez is a Corporate Recruiter in one of the leading BPO companies in the country. She has been a content writer since 2009. While recovering after an operation, with no option to work outside of the home, she discovered writing potential she never thought she had. After contributing articles to several sites, she created her first blog Just Passing Thru, for her parenting thoughts. Next came TereSay, which mainly centers around one of her passions, education. She ends all her TereSay articles on this site with “My Say” or her views on the topic. This blog won 7th Place in the Emerging Influential Blogs of 2013.Her third blog, A Letter Writer, bagged first place in the Emerging Influential Blogs of 2013, and was a finalist in the 2015 Philippine Blogging Awards under the Fiction and Literature Category.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.