I remember the day my son was diagnosed with Autism. It was a relief because we finally knew what the problem was. But it also made me terribly sad because I knew he would face a lot of difficulties no parent wants for their child. I cried. But then I got to work. Because, for me, I needed to be doing something about what I had just learned.
Time is of the essence
I knew from watching my little brother and my nephew, that early intervention is key to helping anyone on the Autism Spectrum overcome their difficulties. Everyone is different, and progresses differently. But services can take time to get set up and get going. Every company will need to do their own assessment to determine your child’s needs. Then there is an assignment to a therapist. And that all takes time.
So I got started by finding my son a good Autism (ABA) therapist. And I took his diagnosis to his school and got the 504/IEP process started. If anyone ever asks you if you should get a 504 or get an IEP, ALWAYS get the IEP. I got the 504 first. And teachers don’t have to follow it. But an IEP has a lot more pull, and a lot more services attached. Once you get an ABA therapist they can come with you to the school for the 504/IEP meetings. And their input is so valuable!
Get an IEP
The school may discourage you, as they did me, but get that IEP. Because it is worth is gold. Often schools will discourage an IEP because it is more expensive for them. But I regret listening to the school. Over and over again they botched my son’s program. And things blew up in my face. My son was so jaded by the school that he was DONE. So we started home-schooling. And now, three years later, I am having to get an IEP (which can ONLY be done through a school, not a home-school or a therapist.) And it is a huge pain. So get your IEP up front.
Push for it, and don’t let them intimidate you. There are advocates on the school level and school district level, and ABA therapists and child psychologists who will come to school with you for these IEP meetings. And they will help you. Don’t do what I did. Get professional help.
Moms VS Dads
By now you know that men and women are different. (Duh.) We are different in the way we handle this kind of challenge too. Men tend to retreat into themselves till they can process the new info. And women will want to talk about it. My husband hid, so I went to my best friend. She tried to support me, but it wasn’t until I found another special needs mom, and a Facebook group, that I really found a place I could vent and learn.
Because my husband hid, he missed out on a lot of helpful instruction from the ABA therapist. For a long time I let him float along, until I started seeing conflicts between he and our son. My husband was lacking the skills and info to deal with our son appropriately. It was then that he started getting the training, and I started sharing the tips I should have been sharing all along.
As a mom, and a dominant personality, I tend to take over. When our family was in this newly diagnosed phase, I started acting on my own. I would make plans, changes, and schedules without consulting or informing my husband. It caused some tension. And it made him feel like I didn’t trust him anymore. It took some counseling for me to see that I wasn’t doing us any favors leaving hubby out. I learned I needed to work with my husband, because we were still a team. And I am glad I did.
Which leads me to a great point. GET SOME COUNSELING. Go by yourself or go together. But remember you are getting all kinds of professional help for your child. And you need help too. There are a lot of divorces linked to being a special needs parent. But you can beat the statistics. My marriage has been strengthened by parenting our son together, and being a team. So don’t think you are doomed for failure, you’re not.
He’s Still Your Munchkin
Sometimes when life throws the big stuff at you, it can change your perspective. When my son was first diagnosed there was a brief period of time where I wondered if I knew my child anymore. But I have learned a big lesson. Your child is not their diagnosis. They are still the sweet little one you brought home, and the sweet kid you’ve raised. The diagnosis is just a new tool to help you understand and help your child.
So don’t be afraid of the diagnosis. As soon as I had professionals helping me, and teaching me to be the kind of mom our son needed, life got much better. His meltdowns are less frequent. And he is learning skills in a way he understands. His confidence is soaring. And now, three years later, I am so glad we found out he has Autism. Because he is an amazing kid. And one day he will be an amazing adult.