Autism Acceptance Month Day 5: How Does a Diagnosis of Autism Impact a Family?

Now that my family is on the other side of the autism learning curve, I can confidently say autism has made our family stronger, more inclusive, and we truly embrace the smallest most wonderful things in life.

So, how does a diagnosis of autism impact the family as a whole? Here are a few ways.

Embrace a new normal

While I’d love for my family to sit down and enjoy the same meal, right now that’s not possible. Due to sensory aversions, my son also has a limited diet. That’s where we are today. And we embrace it. There may be areas in your family’s life were you will need to embrace a new normal and that is perfectly okay!

Let go of traditional parenting strategies 

The crime and punishment model you were raised with, it won’t work. Instead, embrace positive behavior strategies such as positive reinforcement, the use of timers for transitions, giving choices, etc. If you need help learning those, DM me for more detailed suggestions. We can even hop on a call for a free positive behavior consult.

 Learn to say no

If your family is invited somewhere that will a) stress you out due to potential challenges for your child or b) they have no interest in attending, for now, you might need to say no. And it’s okay. Your child will learn and grow, and you will learn and grow.

Celebrate every success, especially the small ones 

Daily activities that often come easy for most children as they develop such as speaking, eating, appropriately interacting with others, and potty training can be challenging for our children on the spectrum. So look for every win and celebrate it big! Each time my son sends himself to the bathroom we praise him to the moon and back. That positive reinforcement will go a long way in encouraging the behaviors you want to see continue.

Let go of the child you thought you had, and unconditionally accept the one you do

Let go of the child you thought you had, and unconditionally accept the one you do – College, independent living, marriage, a job – these things may or may not be a part of your autistic child’s future. And who cares! With a loving family, your child will achieve their optimal level of success, and whatever that looks like it is their happiness that is the most important!

Tomorrow’s question: What community accommodations exist for families of an autistic child?

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Amy Nielsen lives in Orlando, Florida. She is the proud mother of four children ranging in age from 5-33! She and her husband, Brent enjoy sports and traveling. Amy is a former teacher with nearly 20 years of experience, a freelance writer, and a special needs advocate. Her mission is to help educate and empower families of children with disabilities to focus on their child's interests and strengths.