When a child is first diagnosed with autism, there are a variety of ways parents react to the news. Some are relieved; “We finally know what we’re up against and how to help!” Others have a much harder time with it and experience a profound sense of what can only be described as grief. If you’re here and reading this, maybe that’s your struggle. And friend, I want to tell you two things right upfront before I say anything else:
- You are not alone.
- You are not a bad parent for feeling the way you do. Your feelings do not define you. You define yourself.
The main reason many parents feel grief upon receiving an autism diagnosis is because it is a loss, in a sense. When you first had this precious child—who you will always love to the moon and back, no matter what—you had expectations. You were expecting a typical developmental trajectory. You were expecting to have a typical child with a typical life. You had specific plans and aspirations and dreams.
Now with the diagnosis, you no longer know what to expect, and some of those dreams will fall by the wayside. You’re therefore grieving the child you expected to have.
That’s the brutally honest reality for many autism parents. Again—you are not alone and you are not a bad parent for feeling this way. But for the sake of both yourself and your child, this is something you will need to strive to overcome. It will do you no good to remain bitter about your reality, and it certainly won’t do your child any good—children can be incredibly perceptive about the way you view them, and they need your love, acceptance, and support as they travel through this life and its challenges.
So to recap: it’s okay to feel this way, but you can’t let yourself wallow here.
How can you do overcome these feelings? Check out the next page for some strategies you might want to try.
A. Stout received a Bachelor of Arts in Writing through Grand Valley State University, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2015. In addition to being a passionate autism advocate, she is a member of various fandoms, a study abroad alumna, and an animal lover. She dreams of publishing novels and traveling all over the world someday.