As parents we all know the feelings and emotions involved when our child is finally diagnosed with Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome - relief, disbelief, shock, grief.
Then we experience an outrageous flurry of activity as we try to learn everything we can about ASD; source treatment options; meet with our child’s school to establish accommodation plans.... the list goes on and on.
Eventually we calm ourselves a little, start to breathe again and feel more confident about the 'ASD Advocacy' thing, and having to go into battle for our children on a regular basis. On average this process takes us parents between 10 - 18 months - if we're lucky.
Okay, good on us - we've got a grip on the situation and we're handling things better now. But what about our child with Asperger’s/Autism? Whoops..... perhaps we've been SO busy grasping all this we've sort of forgotten about how they might be feeling.
After diagnosis kids with ASD go through very clear stages:-
- scared, confused - "Am I sick, will I die?"
- isolated, alone - "I'm the only person in the whole world with Autism."
- angry, outraged - "Why me?
- relief - "Now I know why I am like this. I'm not naughty!"
- denial - "If I try harder I can be just like everyone else."
- knowledge - learning about Autism characteristics
- self recognition - recognising his Autism characteristics
- self awareness - learning about his strengths and weaknesses
- self acceptance - learning how to maximise strengths & minimise weaknesses
This process usually takes our children with ASD about 3-5 years to complete and this emotional whirlwind starts from the moment of diagnosis.
You may think they're too young to understand the paediatrician’s words, or they're not listening or haven't heard - but usually they have heard and whether you follow this with an explanation or not, the process I’ve listed above begins.
You can help your Asperger’s child feel more comfortable by reading the Ben and His Helmet books to them - written especially for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Your child will quickly connect with Ben's character as they recognise his thoughts and actions. These books can really help to soothe at a time when everyone is feeling frazzled.
So please, keep in mind the process of acceptance your child with ASD is going through after diagnosis, and understand that it may take YEARS to complete. Only when they reach self-acceptance will their ‘superstar’ qualities truly begin to be more visible.
©Nelle Frances 2003