Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Parent's Emotions

When my son was first suspected to have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) I didn’t want to believe it. I thought he was just taking his time talking and that he wanted to be by himself. I am a person who likes to be by myself sometimes. It helps me to deal with the bombardment of socializing all day.  This didn’t seem strange to me at all. However, my wife was convinced that there was something unusual about his behavior.

Now let me explain something. I said, “When my son was first suspected to have Autism Spectrum Disorder.” That is different from being diagnosed. We visited the pediatrician and for a while she wasn’t sure there was anything wrong with him. We knew the speech was delayed, but we didn’t know much else. The doctor wasn’t convinced. We started taking him to a speech pathologist who wasn’t convinced that he was autistic either. She felt that because he was so developed cognitively he was only withdrawn from others, and would grow out of it. With high functioning autistic kids I think this is the problem (I will say that doctors are getting better at detecting Autism). It wasn’t until his three-year  visit to the pediatrician that she finally said, “We need to have him tested for Autism.”

I was still in denial. I’m not unlike many other parents (especially the dads) who want to think of our children growing up a normal life just like Joe’s kids next door. We want them to be as “normal” as possible.

It’s not until that diagnosis, and sometimes even much later, that reality sits in. It’s hard to argue with a diagnosis. The facts are the facts (most of the time). You realize that life as you knew it is not going to be the same. Any child is demanding, but a child with ASD demands much more attention. This attention can weigh on the mind and body. You just get exhausted.

There is also the guilt. This is more prominent in mothers, but fathers feel it too. You wonder if there is something that you did; during pregnancy, during birth, when raising them. You tend to question everything you ever did.

I want to share some tips to help parents deal with those feelings.

We’ve already talked in the past about support groups. I highly recommend these to anyone dealing with the pressures of parenting a child on the spectrum. This is an outlet to vent and learn. You can talk to others who have been through, or are going through, the same things you are.

Look at the diagnosis as a relief. Once you get it you can move forward to help them succeed. Autism is treatable, and once you know what you are dealing with you can find tons of information and help to get your child on the right path.

I found a great website to help parents with the shock of the diagnosis; This is a good resource for dealing with the issues involved in parenting a child with Autism, or any disorder for that matter. Besides the basic information on resources, history, and advocacy there is a link for coping with Autism.       

World Autism Community is a recently-launched site that helps parents as well as anyone affected by Autism. It is set up as a social network (much like facebook) where people log in to talk to others and share information. You can talk to people from all over about the issues they are having which may or may not be similar to yours.

The last thing I want to encourage is certainly not the least: prayer and faith. As with anything in life prayer and spirituality can help you get through anything. One passage I found on a website that I found appropriate was:

 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all of our affliction, that we may be able to comfort them that are in any affliction, through the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” II Corinthians 1:3,4

No matter what happens you have to find a way to get past the emotional battles you are having, or at least learn to deal with them. Until you get your mindset right you will not be able to help your child, and that is the most important thing.

Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column.

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