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Coming to terms with a diagnosis

A diagnosis can be a positive turning point in a child’s life as it can lead to funding and interventions that help both the child and their family. It can lead to specialist care and most importantly it can lead to greater understanding and inclusion.

Try to see a diagnosis as a positive step forward and a way for you and your child to receive greater understanding and support. However, with that being said many parents experience a sense of loss, which may pertain to a loss of one’s old life (the way it used to be) or a loss of one’s future life (the way it may have been). You may grieve the loss of certain hopes and aspirations that you had for your child with an ASD. You may have feelings of fear, worry, confusion, guilt, embarrassment, resentment, and a sense of loneliness and isolation. You may find yourself asking questions such as "Why me? Why did this have to happen to my child? What have I done to deserve this?” Many parents go through something similar to the stages of grief.

Psychologists recommend that you allow yourself to experience your feelings. Holding in feelings can be detrimental to your psychological, emotional, and physical health. Parents can get stuck in one of the stages and need time to process their feelings before moving on. Take your time.

Try and figure out a way for you to express your feelings constructively. Keep a journal, Speak with a close family member or friend. Speak to a counsellor. Make time for you outside your journey with autism. Join a support group for parents of children with ASD. There are wonderful support groups in the community of ASD, both live and online. Contact Autism Support Louth to find out your nearest one or see our Resources section for the Directory of Services

Parents have incredible strength when it comes to their children who have been diagnosed with ASD. I think this following story sums it up.

“The Mountain,” by Jim Stovall:

There were two warring tribes in the Andes, one that lived in the lowlands and the other high in the mountains. The mountain people invaded the lowlanders one day, and as part of their plundering of the people, they kidnapped a baby of one of the lowlander families and took the infant with them back up into the mountains. The lowlanders didn’t know how to climb the mountain. They didn’t know any of the trails that the mountain people used, and they didn’t know where to find the mountain people or how to track them in the steep terrain. Even so, they sent out their best party of fighting men to climb the mountain and bring the baby home. The men tried first one method of climbing and then another. They tried one trail and then another. After several days of effort, however, they had climbed only several hundred feet. Feeling hopeless and helpless, the lowlander men decided that the cause was lost, and they prepared to return to their village below. As they were packing their gear for the descent they saw the baby’s mother walking toward them. They realized that she was coming down the mountain that they hadn’t figured out how to climb. And then they saw that she had the baby strapped to her back. How could that be? One man greeted her and said, “We couldn’t climb this mountain. How did you do this when we, the strongest and most able men in the village, couldn’t do it?” She shrugged her shoulders and said, “It wasn’t your baby.”

Helpful Resources

What next? New diagnosis? Overwhelmed? Our experience and understanding can help. start here