I have two beautiful boys who have both been diagnosed with autism. I love them both but the diagnosis was devastating to me. You always plan on having perfect children. Then when you find out not one but two of your children have autism, it breaks your heart. This list includes five things I stopped doing once I got the diagnosis. It took me a long time to realize my life would be better once I stopped doing these things.
Stop Looking at Developmental Charts
Part of the reason my children were diagnosed early was because of these charts. I realized they weren’t meeting milestones which led me to seek testing. I am not saying these charts are bad but after you get a diagnosis, stop looking. I had signed up for a website that automatically sent me the milestones for my children at each stage. After I found out my boys were autistic, these milestones just served as a reminder that my children were delayed. These stupid things would pop up in my email and honestly they made me feel awful. I would get depressed every time I looked. One day I decided enough was a enough and I clicked the button to stop getting the emails. Seriously, one of the best things I have ever done.
Children with autism develop different and they do not meet developmental milestones so stop worrying about them. Focus on what you child needs instead of looking at what they should be doing. Start paying attention to your child’s progress and achievements.
I am so guilty of this one. I remember my friends having children the same time as me and I almost felt like I was in competition. Whose child would sit up first? Talk first? Crawl? Nobody ever said it was a competition but if my friend said that her daughter said a word, I would think, “Oh no, my son needs to say a word.” I found myself obsessing over what all the other kids could do.
All this does is makes you feel like crap. It also causes you to miss the great things that your child does do. When you have a child with autism or any special needs, you have to learn to appreciate all of the wonderful things they do. I love celebrating the accomplishments my children make. I remember when my five-year-old finally potty trained and I was so excited even though every five-year-old I knew already had it down. I remember when my son finally figured out how to tie his shoes when he was nine-years-old. I was so excited but again most kids figure this out around five. Start celebrating the baby steps and stop comparing to your children to other children.
Stop trying to make them normal
I am not saying don’t encourage them to talk and to have appropriate behavior but stop trying to get them interested in things they aren’t interested in. I might be the only person guilty of this but I have wasted so much money and time trying to get my boys to play with cars or to play sports. My 10-year-old, for example, loves fans and things that spin. I tried so hard to get him interested in normal boy stuff but he never wanted to play with cars and he never wanted to play baseball. I have finally learned to embrace his obsessions and to stop trying to push interests on him.
He is a wonderful kid who loves weather, fans, air conditioning units, and lately the Titanic. When he becomes interested in something new, I encourage him to learn as much as he can about that topic. When he loved the weather, we visited a weather station. When he loved fans, he watched YouTube videos about fans. He went around our entire house and switched our fans to winter mode. He can also explain the way the fan spins and why you need to switch it for the different seasons. It is amazing how much he has learned about so many random topics. To get there though, I had to get out of the way and let him explore his own interests. He will usually stay obsessed with something for a few months and then he moves onto something new. He is full of so much interesting information. It took me years to get out of his way and let him explore.
I am not saying you have to completely stop introducing new things. Jayden, for example, has to learn new things at school all of the time but I also give him time to follow his interests. I stopped trying to make him normal and I let him be him.
Stop listening to the haters
I would never say not to take advice from people, but some people do not deserve your time. I have a very loving person in my life who is constantly telling me how to fix my children. They constantly give me articles to read about crazy supplements and they constantly try to give me unwanted parenting advice. For the longest time, I let this bother me, but after eight or so years I’ve decided it is not worth it. I let this person talk but I let it flow out the other ear. I have learned the difference between good advice and the useless information some people try to feed me.
This also applies to the rude people at the stores that give you looks when your eight-year-old has a meltdown. As an autism mom, I have learned to ignore these people and live my life. I am doing the best I can for my children. There are so many people who truly do not get it. They do not know what your life is like and they decide to be rude before trying to understand. Learn to ignore the haters.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself
This definitely sounds harsh but feeling sorry for yourself is a horrible trap. It is normal to be sad after a diagnosis but a diagnosis doesn’t mean you cannot find joy and happiness. Your child needs you to see how awesome he is. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, focus on all of the great things about your child. Focus on what your child can do and encourage him to be amazing. I have found peace and joy in my autism journey by changing my focus from disability to their abilities. I love my children with autism and they are so different from every kid I’ve ever met so I do not feel sorry for myself.
When my first child was diagnosed, somebody told me my child is not a different person. My child is still beautiful and his personality hasn’t changed because of a diagnosis. The kid I love is still there. The diagnosis does not change your child into something new.