How do you respond when you hear your child has autism?
We are all unique. It is what makes life interesting. Yet right from childhood we are expected to fit in and become the proverbial square peg in a square hole. We are programmed to react sad to bad news, excited and happy at good news and relief at hearing something is either not as bad as we thought or if it confirms what we have been expecting. As complex people we can even experience all that in just one go and often remain composed and professional on the outward appearance.
I have twice sat in rooms with various professionals and been told my child has autism.
How am I meant to respond?
Should I cry because my world has just turned my upside down; so many dreams I had for my child shattered as they have just been a life long diagnosis that could potentially limit them?
Should I sit in silence remaining composed while I am told all the deficits and difficulties my child has?
Should I look the person in the eye while they talk to me about their assessments that day and what other professionals have said about my child?
Or should I be relieved that my child just thinks a different way to others and count myself blessed he is just the same beautiful and loving child I brought in an hour before?
Am I wrong to keep my feeling to myself and keep the news confidential? What if I feel I want to share with immediate family only for support? Is it acceptable to update my social media with such news right away?
Should I ring a help line, search the Internet or immediate join a support group? Is there books I should real or pamphlets I take away with me?
What can I do about this? Should I be trying to change him or should I accept this? Should I be investigating private therapies or wait for further investigations or referrals?
What will this mean for my child’s education? Will this affect his health? Will he ever speak to me? What about the future?
While all this and so much more ran though my head on both occasions I heard myself thanking the person, shaking their hand and then finding my child to take them home.
I am never really sure if they expected me to cry. I wonder if they felt I was not hearing what they said. Maybe I even came across as uncaring or in denial? Would professionals have slated me for telling people, and even worse updating my social media that very day?
This week I heard more news on my children. Once again I found myself thanking the people concerned and shaking their hands. It seems the right thing to do. I have been programmed to be professional, not take up their time, and be dignified.
But we are all only human.
Never, ever let anyone tell you how you have to respond to that type of situations. It is ok to cry. It is ok to grieve. It is ok to retreat, tell the world and everything in-between. It is ok to feel trauma. It is ok to feel numb, or even relief.
Hearing your child has a life long condition with no cure is tough. Yes your child is still the most amazing, wonderful, beautiful child you took in to the clinic that day but things still change.
They change. You change.
However you respond when you hear your child has autism is the right way. There is no wrong way to respond. Even if you leave with a huge grin on your face dancing all the way home that is still ok. If it takes months of crying non-stop after the event that is also fine. You are all right. You are human.
In time how you feel changes. Then sometimes, like I had this week, you may have a co-morbid condition added on too. Then the whole emotional roller coaster can start all over again.
We are all unique. Your child is not a square peg but let me tell you something…you don’t have to be either. Be who you are. React how you react.
How do you respond when you hear your child has autism? There is no wrong way.