So, Your Child Was Diagnosed With Autism…Now What?
I understand your jumble of emotions, desire for a guided path, and most of all…for HOPE.
I was in your exact place two decades ago. My youngest son, David, has autism and Tourette syndrome. He barely spoke at age three and battled processing, comprehension, and analytical challenges. Yet, he is now happy and fulfilled 24-year-old teacher…in language arts, no less! Together, we formed a team and found what worked for him. Seeking to help others in the same quest, David and I have co-authored our life journey and have evolved into public speaking. Dave is a sought-after motivational speaker who has presented in multiple states to students, parents/community groups, and professionals; he has even delivered a TEDx Talk. These are accomplishments beyond what most “typical” persons achieve, especially at David’s age.
Let me share with you some of the lessons I learned that I feel made a difference in David’s outcome:
- Begin multi-disciplinary interventions as soon as possible
- Early intervention is key to progress
- Never stop networking!
- Leads to information, resources, support, ideas, and OPPORTUNITIES
- Observe therapies and volunteer in classrooms as often as possible
- Firsthand observations give unique insights
- Involve your child in activities he/she enjoys
- Assists in developing communication and social skills
- Assists in making friends and finding a social niche
- Helps to perfect talents and skills, aiding in enhanced self-esteem
- May ultimately lead to a career path!
- Anticipate, research, and prepare for the child’s next phase of life (or even two or more stages ahead!)
- Prevents missed opportunities
- Enables being prepared when you get there
- Research or propose options, and advocate for deviations: ideally, customize education
- Parents are key members of the intervention team: be actively involved!
- Assist the child to learn organization and preparation
- Work on executive functioning and problem solving
- Encourage the child to seek assistance without embarrassment
- Work with him or her on WHEN and HOW
- Provide social and INTELLECTUAL summer activities
- Prevents regression and maintains readiness
- TRANSITIONING IS IMPORTANT!
- At each new stage of development
- At each new school
- For each “change”
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- Advocacy is essential to success
- Transition your child to self-advocate, when ready
- Needs are ongoing and evolve throughout life
- Make time for YOU!
- Slighting your needs and desires will not help your child and family (or you!)
- Enjoy the unique, gifted, and wonderful person that your child is!
- You may be amazed by the dreams he or she can attain!
To read about specific examples of the above, as well as about other challenges, solutions, AND blessings from the toddler years through college, consider reading our book, Expect a Miracle: A Mother/Son Asperger Journey of Determination and Triumph. It enables readers to experience life from the separate perspectives of a person with autism AND his mother, thus enabling an intricate understanding.
I have learned so much about the human spirit and about what is truly important in life…and our adventure continues!
I wish you similar discoveries and joy!
Sandy Petrovic, RN, BSN, proud mother of three, is a registered nurse, author, and public speaker who is a tutor/instructional advisor at the Notre Dame College Academic Support Center. She gleans perspectives from working with many learning differences, besides the practical experience of raising a son on the autism spectrum. She is also a co-chair of the Milestones National Autism Conference.
This article was featured in Issue 77 – Achieving Better Health with ASD