A diagnosis of autism means a future addressing challenges in behavior, communication, and social interactions. The autism disorder can present with mild symptoms to very severe symptoms. In most cases, a diagnosis is made during childhood. Clinicians are accustomed to providing treatment to the children with diagnoses, but sometimes miss the needs of the parents.
Addressing Parents’ Concerns
In addition to dealing with their children’s symptoms, parents must also face their own concerns and fears. Parents and family members also face challenges dealing with friends, extended family, and community members who don’t understand autism-related issues. As a clinician, you can offer the following tips to struggling parents:
1. Identify Positive Traits and Habits
Just like other children, a child with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum has many positive traits. As parents identify those traits and focus on reinforcing positive behaviors, they’ll strengthen the parent-child relationship. It’s important that parents love their children for who they are.
2. Learn To Work Through Grief
The most common autism diagnosis age is after 4 years old. Parents of these young children often have feelings of grief for the future they had envisioned with and for their children. Remember, someone on the spectrum has both strengths and differences, and an assessment professional can help you understand those details better. Offer tips such as these to help parents work through their feelings:
· Accept feelings of grief without guilt
· Look for and accept support from loved ones; share the news with family and close friends for support
· Express grief through tears, writing, artistic outlets, physical activities, and with a safe friend or family member
· Reach out to other parents going through the same diagnosis
· Remember that these feelings of grief will eventually diminish
As much as possible, encourage parents to stick to their schedules and maintain consistency while working through their feelings. Sometimes, it’s helpful for parents to visit with a therapist of their own.
3. Consider Respite Care
Some behaviors that accompany an autism diagnosis are extreme and intense. Parents could often use short periods of time away from their child to protect their own health. Allowing another caregiver to watch the child lets parents protect their emotional well-being, so they can continue to provide their best care to their child.
4. Share New Information With Friends, Family, and Communities
Encourage parents to share what they learn with the people around them rather than keeping the diagnosis quiet. The more that family, friends, and community members understand about autism, the better prepared they’ll be to offer constructive support. This step also improves the likelihood that the child’s feelings and concerns are addressed positively.