By Ray Hemachandra
When my son, Nicholas, was diagnosed with autism in 2003, I didn’t know very much about what that meant for his life. I only knew he would always be loved and cherished by his family, and I hoped the world, just as he was.
I wanted to support him in every way possible. I just wasn’t sure what those ways were.
The information available to families of newly diagnosed children is greater than ever, and so is the rate of diagnosis of autism in the United States (1 in 68) and North Carolina (1 in 59).
April is Autism Awareness Month. Many autistic adults prefer to call it Autism Acceptance Month, because autism acceptance is lacking in much of our society and is the area of greater need.
What should families of newly diagnosed autistic children know that I wish someone had told me? Here are a few starting thoughts:
- First, getting the diagnosis is a very good thing. Now you are empowered to find information to help your child in her or his life, as well as your entire family.
- Much more information about autism is available than ever before. Which is great, but between all the therapeutic approaches, philosophies, visual supports, sensory tools — well, there’s a lot to learn about. Becoming overwhelmed is easy. Take a breath, and take your time in finding the right fit for your
- There is a growing, diverse and robust community of autistic adults. Your child will grow up to be a part of it. Seek out and listen to the voices of autistic adults online, in books and in your community. Listen to the lessons and stories they want to share. Respect their opinions, experiences and perspectives.
- We ask for autism acceptance for our children in society. That starts in the family: accepting autism as an essential aspect of your child — with all of her or his strengths, blessings and challenges — and expecting nothing less from those who interact with your child across settings.
- Happiness is the goal. Make life choices to help your child be well and happy. And, as he or she grows, make sure you empower her or him to do the same.
For more information about autism and support for families at Family Support Network of Western North Carolina, which is located in Mission’s Children’s Hospital.