It is important to know that if you have recently been told “your child has autism”, that tens of thousands of parents have been through this and survived – YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
Be kind to yourself – you must first acknowledge the loss of what you expected the future would hold. Someone once told me that it is like you have planned for years for a trip to Italy, you budgeted and planned, read dozens of travel books and brochures, you even learned the language, but when you got off the plane, you were in Japan….not that there is anything wrong with that destination, it was just not what you expected or wanted…you are confused and distressed, you can’t understand the language and nothing can make you happy… this analogy is what the arrival of my second child was like.
Give yourself permission to grieve, then you will be ready to get down to the business of being a family with autism. It is imperative for all members of your family (team) to understand, support and intuitively become “autistic” to pave the way for your child to fit into our world as he/she grows, learns, develops and matures.
When my child was an uncommunicative toddler, the professionals first suggested she was deaf. Testing revealed the opposite, hyper-acute hearing. We had no idea how to engage this squirming, tactile defensive (hated to be touched or held) child who refused eye contact. There was no babbling or cooing, the only sounds made were ear piercing screams. Our first trip to the Sunnyhill diagnostic team resulted in a label of “Severe Communication Disorder” but probably autistic, they just felt it was too early to attach that label. We were, however, told that she would most likely never speak, learn to use the toilet, read or write and certainly never live independently – a social worker suggested placing her in a foster home.
That heart-rending day was over 20 years ago – today our daughter is a fully independent, self-sufficient adult who graduated from high school (unsupported) with Honours, then completed University without her professors being informed of her autism or any other supports or assistance.
We did NOT accomplish this alone. Without the help of trained behaviour therapists, a host of professionals and the accommodations we made as a family, this never would have been possible to achieve. It was hard work, but the challenge made us better parents and better people.
Get help and get working! There is not a moment to lose………