Five Things That New Autism Parents Should Consider Part 2

The next thing a parent should consider is how are they doing personally. There is a reason that when you’re on airplane you are told that if anything is to go wrong that you are to put your oxygen mask on first and then help others. The same thing applies in this situation. There are many different changes that happen when you get the news that your child has been diagnosed with autism. Most, if not all of the changes, are ones that happen internally to parents. These changes can leave parents feeling lost, out of control, anxious and frustrated. When somebody finds themselves feeling this way they are in a very unresourceful state and struggle to be effective regardless of the situation that they are in. Let’s look at a few different examples of what these changes are and how they affect new autism parents.

The first change that we will look at is the expectation that parents create around their child and what the future will look like. Many parents will have created an image, or internal visualization, of their child’s life, how they will grow up, and in some cases, what they will become as an adult and professional. A new autism parent will continue to create this vision over time adding different pieces of life into place such as the sports that their child will play, college graduation, even of their child getting married, until it becomes very strong and vivid in their mind. When they find out that their child has autism all of a sudden the image that they have created is challenged and begins to fall apart. Just this process in itself creates a huge conflict in parents and often leads to an emotional letdown which is very hard for parents to manage because they’ve created this image and have all types and sorts of emotions and expectations which their child will now struggle to achieve. What can be an even greater challenge for new autism parents is the image that they have created for themselves as a parent. They will see themselves very strongly tied to the different milestones and achievements that they’ve imagined for their child. The more that they do this the more they create the type of parents that they see themselves to be. This becomes strongly intertwined to the parents self image, or better put, the person that they see themselves as. When you consider the period of time that any new autism parent has put into creating this image you will begin to understand just how strong this image is. In many cases this image has been developed over the course of three to four years. This is also not something that is thought about intermittently by the parent, it is very likely that this is one of the more predominant thoughts that any parent will have throughout the course of their day. And just by the very nature of parenthood, mothers are far more tied to the creation of this image in their mind. When you combine the image the new autism parent creates of their child’s future with the image that they create in terms of the kind of parent, and ultimately the kind of person, that they will become you will see that they have put a lot of eggs into just one basket. When the image is shattered by the diagnosis of autism and the basket falls to the ground many new autism parents find that their emotions are very similar to the many broken eggs in the basket. When this happens it is impossible to put these pieces back together which leaves any new autism parent in no mans land with little or no direction on what to do next. This is just one of the different factors affected by the diagnosis of autism that can cause a wide variety of the emotions and conflicts internally in new autism parents.

The next thing the new autism parent should take into account is their belief system. A person’s belief system is really a perspective, or what many people would call the persons personal paradigm. At the heart of the matter what this really means to the new autism parent is what they believe autism is and how it will impact their child. It is hard for any parent or any autism professional to be able to predict exactly how autism will affect their child’s growth, development and future. What we do as human beings is that we take our belief system and our current understanding of any given situation and we apply it to our thoughts of the future outcome. As an example, when I found out that my daughter was diagnosed with autism the only frames of reference that I had were the movie Rain Man that starred Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise as well as an interview that I saw with Sylvester Stallone and Oprah Winfrey about his child with autism. In both cases the subject was autism however it was very specific to that situation and nothing else. The only thing that either of these situations have in common with my daughters diagnosis was autism. Neither of these situations supplied any information that was specific to how my daughter would develop however, not knowing anything else about autism, I applied what I thought were the facts regarding autism to what I thought this meant for my daughter. This did nothing to help my situation or to help me prepare myself to be able to help my daughter. In fact, these reference points left me imagining that there would be very dire consequences that my daughter would experience because of her diagnosis. It wasn’t until I truly began to observe and study my daughter’s behaviour that I began to discover how autism was actually influencing my daughter’s behaviour and development. The time that it took to come to this realization was filled with doubts, misunderstandings and anxiety as to my daughter’s future. A new autism parent should be prepared to challenge their belief system so that they can get by all of the BS that they create for themselves and get to the heart of the matter in helping their child.
When you take into account all of the different factors that we have discussed up to this point you will find that most people and most new autism parents will find themselves on an emotional roller coaster. One moment everything seems to be going okay and the next moment is filled with anxiety while the moment after that is filled with frustration or anger. This is different for each person but is similar in nature across the board. What has really happened here is that your emotions have hijacked your thinking process and your responses to the situation you find yourself in. If you find yourself in a place where your emotions control your actions, decisions and ultimately your results it is very likely that you’re not making the best decisions because you are emotionally hijacked.

Another way that new autism parents can react is like a deer that wanders on to the road and gets caught up in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle. What is essentially happening is that the deer is paralyzed unsure of what to do because of the shock of the situation that the deer finds itself in which ultimately leads to its inability to take any kind of action because its brain is essentially frozen. Something very similar can happen to new autism parents when they find out that their child has autism. When the news hits them they get caught up in trying to understand what this all means and they also have the shock of all of the change that their brain is now calculating, meaning that they know that their world is changing but they don’t realize how much it is going to change or in what ways. What this translates to is that they find it is hard to take action because they don’t know what to do next. The risk to this is that it can catch a parent up in up in this confusion and it can take months for them to get things in motion. This is essentially lost time and takes away from the window that they have to make the most significant difference possible for their child. The problem with time is that once it is gone you cannot get it back and in the intervention process you will have lost not only time but also the opportunity which is irreplaceable.

The last aspect that I will touch upon is the scenario where a new autism parent becomes overwhelmed which can be a driver of the emotional roller coaster. With all of the information that is available out there along with the many opinions that you will encounter from family and friends it is very easy to fall into this trap. Most people start by looking on the internet and searching for information about autism and everything that goes with it. Soon enough you find yourself on the third page of google going through the many sites that claim to be authorities on the matter. They may, in fact, be exactly that but there is only so much information that you can take in and without having a full understanding of your child you will not be able to identify what is relevant to your child’s situation and what is not. Further to this you are not likely to find much functional, useful information that will help you as a parent. Knowing that you will be the primary care giver you should be fully prepared for what is coming in your direction, however, you might not even consider this as a meaningful avenue to engage in order to help your child. Next will be the many other well intentioned friends and family that will have done some of their own research and are eager to share it with you. This only adds to your already cluttered and preoccupied mind further compounding the feeling of being overwhelmed. You can get caught up in the moment of it all and go further and further into the abyss of hopelessness. This will do nothing to help you move forward or help your child.
Here are some powerful questions that can help you with getting out of this line of thinking and back onto the track of taking meaningful action.

How am I feeling most of the time?
What actions am I taking that are not moving me forward?
What is my most resourceful state?
How can I get myself into this state on a consistent and reliable basis?
What kind of support do I need?
What are the top 3 actions that I can take that will move the intervention process forward?
How can I prepare myself for the future right now?

If you find yourself in the early stages of your intervention or you have just found out that your child has been diagnosed with ASD or autism and are struggling with how you can get the process started and going in the right direction then click the link to this special report, 5 Steps To Starting The Intervention Process Even If You Don’t Have Access To Professional Services. It will help you get the process started and give the early support you need to start progressing in your life with autism.
Until next time, take care, keep your head up and be a pillar of strength for your child and family!

Bryan