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Your Child Was Just Diagnosed Autistic. What Now? 3 Manageable Next Steps

Updated: Apr 26


A new autism diagnosis can be a lot to a parent at first, and it’s common to have very mixed feelings about it. It’s a large “bucket” diagnosis to describe a wide range of attributes, mostly social and behavioral, ultimately neurological.


Perhaps the new diagnosis provides confirmation of what you’ve known about your child for some time and it provides some relief. Perhaps it brings an entirely new set of fears about the future.

 

There are some first steps to consider that I found helpful as our family first navigated my oldest child’s autism diagnosis, or that I wish I had known about in those early days:

 

1. Find Your Support People:


Are there people in your extended family, friendships, colleagues at work, or in spiritual or other communities of yours that can be or are supportive, accepting, and caring towards you and your family as you process your experience? Hint: they will be the ones that stay engaged with you, that check-in and genuinely want to know how you are doing, and who welcome hearing about your emotions without judgment.


If you don’t have this, consider finding a therapist that has experience with neurodivergence. (The Parenting Autism Therapy Center therapists are parents of neurodivergent children themselves, and offer neuro-informed therapy and coaching to individuals, couples, and families, as well as a support group for parents.)


2. Take Your Time Figuring Out Therapies or Services


A diagnosis usually opens up access to services and therapies. There are many therapeutic options, and it’s a lot to consider. It takes time to do research about your therapeutic options and to decide what is best for your child and your family.


You CAN take your time to figure this out. Often practitioners will encourage beginning services as soon as possible for “early intervention” (before the age 3) or because it may take time to get services or therapies up and running. These practitioners and therapies have the potential to have a large impact on you and your child’s life, and you are often having to open up your home and your schedule to them, at the expense of other things such as work and other commitments.


There will be a lot of appointments ahead, and you’ll engage with a range of practitioners. Know that some of them will be amazing supports to your child and family.

 

3. You Don’t Need to Have it all Figured Out and You Won’t Get it All Right:


One thing at a time, and one day at a time kept things manageable for us. We were repeatedly overwhelmed and with long “to-do” lists that I couldn’t imagine completing. With whatever free time and energy we had (which felt like very little) my husband and I tackled what was in front of us.


We were in charge of our own education about autism, the available therapies, and we needed to be the ones to seek out any community around it. And we needed to be the gatekeepers for our child to ensure they were cared for, respected, and had access to what they needed in all areas of life. We pieced it all together slowly.


Did we do things that I would do differently now? Absolutely. When we knew better we did better. These experiences helped us feel much more equipped later to advocate for our child, to navigate the many healthcare systems and services, and to be a good resource for other families navigating a new diagnosis. 


Know that you CAN do this! You’re a great parent to your neurodivergent child/children, and there is also support here available to you if and when you need it. The Parenting Autism Therapy Center has passionate clinicians who have walked a similar parenting path as you, and who are here and ready to help you.





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