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Reacting to a New ASD Diagnosis


This is a multiple choice question:

Your child received an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis…. What should you do?

  1. Go into a corner and cry.
  2. Put your head in the sand and do nothing.
  3. Immediately begin making phone calls for special services; seek out therapists and providers.
  4. B-R-E-A-T-H-E .

The wise adult chooses option 4 — BREATHE. Take a deep breath; think about what you need to do for yourself, your family, and your child. Just like the instructions the airlines suggest: in case of emergency, set up the oxygen mask for yourself first and then offer it to your child — the same goes for parents of children with a new ASD diagnosis.

Be sure to take care of yourself so you will have the emotional strength and the physical energy you need for your family. Take care of yourself first, because only if you are well and in relatively good shape will you have energy and a clear head to think about what you need to do and the strength to think clearly and make decisions and follow through with your plans. That means, eat well, prepare nutritious meals, sleep well, don't stay up all night reading from the internet or worrying! Plan to do just one thing for yourself each day. Call a friend (and talk about anything other than ASD), go to the gym, have a cup of tea by yourself, or watch reality TV — do whatever you need to do to feel OK. Even plan an outing with a friend who lives far away and you haven't seen in a while. THIS IS IMPORTANT!

Then and only then will you have the stamina to do all you need to do. That means maintaining and supporting family relationships. There needs to be time to just be: to be a family, be silly, be cuddly, just be.… If you have other children, they may sometimes feel that they are getting short changed if all your time and energy is spent with your child with the ASD diagnosis. Your relationship with your spouse also needs attention. You need time together to nurture each other, to communicate about how you feel about all of this, and to develop goals and strategies to work on together. Certainly you may have separate ideas and thoughts, and you need to discuss and come up with one plan for your family.

ASD is a lifelong condition. You will find the therapists your child needs. You will cry along the way. But you also want to make sure you enjoy and appreciate the life you have. It starts by taking time to reflect and gain perspective.

The Center for Autism Research and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia do not endorse or recommend any specific person or organization or form of treatment. The information included within the CAR Autism Roadmap™ and CAR Resource Directory™ should not be considered medical advice and should serve only as a guide to resources publicly and privately available. Choosing a treatment, course of action, and/or a resource is a personal decision, which should take into account each individual's and family's particular circumstances.