The Welcome Basket for parents of newly diagnosed children with ASD
Parenting is hard. Parenting a typical child is challenging enough, but raising a child on the autism spectrum brings the challenge to a new level. There are days that I wish that any diagnosis would be accompanied by a Welcome Basket with books, phone number of parents who get it, and chocolate. (“Ms. Smith, here is your report, here is your child back, and here is a Welcome Basket. Emergency codes will activate in the morning, so please don’t call tonight. For tonight, we added an extra Dove Bar.”)
I have asked parents what they wished someone had told them early on. Responses include:
- Trust your gut. If you know something is amiss, keep talking about it until you get assistance.
- You are an advocate; act like it. You are about to ask for many things for your child. Keep your child at the center of the discussion, and ask for interventions, social opportunities, and respect.
- Being social comes in different flavors. Learn your child’s style, support that style, and encourage additional skill development.
- Find your people. Parents of children on the spectrum will understand your plight. Find them. Befriend them. Ask them how to solve problems. Then turn around and share that gift of friendship with the newly diagnosed family in line behind you.
- You will grow a thick skin. You may not be invited to some social events, people may fail to ask about your child, people may fail to celebrate your child, and sometimes your child will accidentally offend you. Chocolate and wine will help you in the short term, but family and friends will help you in the long term. Get that social support network in place.
- You will learn to ask for help, directly. You will learn to set limits, conserve resources, and love greatly. The loving greatly is the best part.
- Empathy takes many shapes. Your child is empathic, and don’t let people tell you otherwise.
- Humor is everywhere. Your child will likely view the world in some pretty unique ways. Sometimes the viewpoints will blow your mind, other times the viewpoints will make you laugh until you cry.
- You will cultivate hope and optimism. You will celebrate victories, developmental milestones, and budding friendships in a way that you cannot currently imagine.
- Your life will be richer with the ASD, but it might not feel like that every day.
I’m not saying every day will be a picnic, but there is probably something worth celebrating every day. When you struggle, check your Welcome Basket.