I will never forget the day my daughter was officially diagnosed with Autism. It’s hard to forget that level of emotional exhaustion.
She spun in circles in the middle of the room as one professional after another entered, added papers to my take home pile, and left. I couldn’t even look at the print-outs let alone listen to the bombardment of explanations. Social workers, neuropsychologists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, behavioral therapists…and every other type of therapist.
Overwhelmed didn’t even begin to cover it.
I remember sitting there, my mind spinning as fast as she was, right on the edge of an anxiety attack thinking –
Where do I even start?
What was the point of all this information, why can’t someone just tell me what to do?
I remember thinking that even if I knew the next steps, I wouldn’t be able to accomplish them. That I didn’t have the energy. That I didn’t have the strength.
I felt lost.
And while all this ran through my mind all I could focus on was – she is autistic.
Despite all my own processing, grief, anxiety, and stress. Despite telling myself over and over and over again that my daughter is autistic, that that was what explained it all. Despite trying to wrap my head around it, to accept it. Despite everything — my daughter was still the same child she was before we sat down in that doctor’s office.
She still is.
The thing about an official diagnosis is that it doesn’t really change anything while changing everything.
You, your child, your family – it’s all the same. While how you do things might change, who you and your child are won’t.
You might have to adapt and learn how to do things differently. You might have to learn a new lingo. You might have to attend a lot of meetings and go to some therapy appointments. You might have to step out of your comfort zone.
But right now, right now you don’t have to do anything.
The rest will come.
That pile of papers that came home with you from the doctor’s office can wait. The next decisions that you have to make can also wait. For now go do something for you, something for your child. Go enjoy your day – your week – and relax.
In time, you will surprise yourself at just how capable, strong, and educated you are. There will be a day that the lingo is no longer a foreign language to you. You will know it inside out and better than some of those professionals who sat down beside you today. You will be able to advocate for your child and be strong for them.
And you will be really, really good at it.
But for now, you don’t have to be.
You may feel like your world has just flipped upside down but just remember…
Your child is the same kiddo and you are the same mom.
There is nothing a doctor can ever say to change that.
So, my best advice for what to do in the days that follow an Autism Diagnosis is this — take as much time as you need.
Additional Autism Resources