As a parent of a child with special needs, I can’t tell you how many times someone has innocently said to me, “I don’t know how you do it.” Meant to be an empathetic comment, it often left me wanting to respond, “I don’t know either” or, “It’s not like I have a choice...” Being a special-needs parent is not something I wished for, but is part of who I am. Usually I was the person who helped - now I am often the one who needs help. I am more comfortable giving than receiving. It hurts to feel vulnerable. It’s difficult to acknowledge that I can’t do it all on my own, that I need ‘the village.’
When a child receives as psychoeducational diagnosis following an assessment process, many parents are faced with the same key question: ‘When and how should I talk to my child and other children about the assessment results?’ While each child is unique and individualized guidance can be key in navigating the best approach for your family, the following are some guidelines for you to consider.
I distinctly remember the day my son was diagnosed. Parents don’t forget receiving that type of news. Somehow, after listening to the cluster of labels applied to my child, I ended up at the grocery store. The clerk asked calmly, as if my world hadn’t just been crushed, “How are you today?” I shoved down my emotions and provided the expected response, “I’m fine.” I wanted to say the opposite. That day, I did not think anything would ever be ‘fine’ again. After receiving a diagnosis for your child, it is natural to feel overwhelmed and to experience a mixture of many emotions: shock, confusion, denial, sadness, guilt, anger - even relief. It may anchor you to remember that, despite the diagnosis, your child is still your child.
Special events are the stuff of happy memories for most of us, but for children with autism, the departure from routine and avalanche of social expectations in an unfamiliar setting full of strangers can spell potential calamity. ‘No surprises!’ is a tactic worth the preparation and planning effort.
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