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How to Deal with an Autism Diagnosis

Learn how to handle an autism diagnosis from pediatrician and child development expert Asma J. Sadiq, M.D. in this Howcast video.


So how does a parent or family deal with the diagnosis given to their child of an autism spectrum disorder? Some parents have the most dreaded fear of the A-word. They go, "I don't want to hear the word 'Autism'," and yet sometimes, it can also be a bit of a relief, because you're describing your child. And I think it's important to not get to getting fixated on the diagnostic labeling and understand that this is a label being given to your child based on certain diagnostic criteria and also to help your child get more services, to help physicians and practitioners communicate and understand what are the issues. Your child is your child. It doesn't change that. We're just putting a label or diagnosis to help understand the symptoms that your child is suffering from, and that has brought you here for this evaluation. And I think keeping that perspective that diagnosis is man-made, that this is your child, and yet it is often a relief to a parent, because they are describing something that they have seen with their child, and to have it understood by a physician or professional is at times a relief.

Between parents there can be a dispute. There's one who's a minimizer and one who's just in denial and has a real difficulty in diagnosis, so it's important to have both parents there. I would particularly recommend that when dealing with a diagnosis like that, then getting the family involved. One of the next steps that is so important is to get more information and to pace yourself. And parents often get onto the websites, they go on looking at parent groups and blogs, and you can get some information but some misinformation. So it's important to follow up with your diagnostic physician or the team that is involved in the care of your child. If you've come to your specialist, go back to your primary physician.

Make sure you get yourself some support, and always remember, this is not a sprint. It's a marathon. You're going to have to do things in stages and take a breath and take care of yourself, because you are the one taking care of your child. You are the strongest advocate. You are the caretaker, and these are the things I strongly support families with, that this is a diagnosis that can be worked with. There's a lot more information that we have.

You can actually use that diagnosis and the recommendations given by the diagnosing physician to get more services. It can help you in the process of early intervention. It will help you get more services in schools, as well as in the home. For example, early intervention provides both center-based and home-based. So you take that diagnosis and take a deep breath and you make a strategy. And you look at educational treatments, behavioral, "Have I done the whole evaluation firstly?", so that pieces that fit that need to be broken up so you can digest it or work on them, doing a thorough evaluation, "What else needs to be done for my child?" whether it's genetic testing or whether it's an occupational therapy evaluation, or whether I need to get more blood test done for any deficiencies, etc, or whether there's some food intolerances.

Then there's the therapeutic educational behavior of peace that needs to be there, and then the piece of taking care of yourself and helping the family, the sibling, the grandparents who are in denial, just working with that and giving yourself the support and creating a community is very important because this is a heavy diagnosis. But it's a diagnosis which also gives you tools and gives you hope to do stuff. And it's important sometimes you have a diagnosis versus not having a diagnosis and to be denying a problem that your child may be having.

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