Parenting Children Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
From Confusion to Assessment to Treatment
ASD Assessment Challenges
Parenting can be challenging in and of itself, and it can be complicated if the child has a diagnosis of any type. Being able to figure out if your child needs to be assessed for a psychiatric disorder can be fraught, especially when symptoms seem vague. There is often the hope that the child will ‘grow out of it.’
So, the decision to bring one’s child to a psychiatrist, psychologist, other mental health professional for assessment can be difficult. Parents may be of different minds on the subject. Finding an appropriate mental health professional can be frustrating as not all professionals in the field are familiar with ASD. There can be insurance and transportation barriers as well.
Once the decision is made and the assessment done, there can be more challenges. The assessment should yield suggestions for specific interventions. These can include in-home and/or in-school services, and perhaps special education in the child’s school; there could eventually be a recommendation for psychiatric consult.
Shifting from Ideal to Real with ASD
Beyond this there is a reckoning as most parents have an idealized picture in their minds of what their child will be/what they what their child to be even before the child is born. The ASD diagnosis may lead parents to wonder if the future they envisioned for their child will be realized. For example, many parents may wish their children to marry and have children eventually. This could seem foreclosed in some cases. The child with ASD may show no interest in others or specifically in dating. They may be petrified of rejection. The desire to help one’s child does not diminish in the face of such obstacles. The child may avoid the company of their parents or having trouble connecting with their parents’ interests; this can be dismaying to any parent.
Aside from wishes for the child’s future, there can be naturally accompanying psychiatric disorders and behaviors that can be difficult to manage. Trusting mental health providers with the care of one’s child can be daunting and even angering. A parent may be told not to force a child to comply to directives, but this may be against their better judgement and/or how the parent was raised. Furthermore, the parent may feel that this parenting style was effective for them.
ASD Changes the World We Expected
In short, having a child on the autistic disorder spectrum can be life and world changing. The parent or parents is confronted with learning professional jargon, making multiple appointments with multiple providers, deciphering bewildering behaviors, and learning to tolerate if not enjoy, to some degree, intense interests. A parent may expect their child to have interest in sports, cars, video games, etc.
However, the way a child diagnosed with ASD interacts with their interests or passions can be unusual. For example, they may sniff a match box car rather than make it race. The interest themselves may seem odd, such as intense focus on trains and even train schedules.
Additionally, parents can be worried as to who and how their child will be cared for as the parents themselves age. It may seem very difficult for the individual to get a job or find housing; college far away from home poses its own issues. It’s important to note, a parent of a child diagnosed with ASD may wish to have support of their own. This could be in the form of information about ASD, therapy, support group, etc.
Our clinicians have experience and empathy for parents of children with ASD. Call today at 724.934.3905
View resources below as a way to exchange ideas and information about raising children diagnosed with ASD, as well as provide hope and support through challenging times.
- Autism Connection of Pennsylvania – Autism Connection of Pennsylvania is a lifeline for families and individuals affected by autism providing education, advocacy and support. (autismofpa.org)
- This organization provides support groups in many communities throughout Pennsylvania – they are run by parents (there may be guests who are professionals in the field).
- Autism Parenting Magazine – everything you need to support your family
- Early Start Denver Model | ESDM Training Program | Autism Intervention (treatment for infants and toddlers).
- The LEAP Preschool Model (psu.edu)
- Tony’s Blog – Dr Tony Attwood
- Early Intervention; Evidence-based Treatment – Autism Research Institute
- Your Life is Not a Label: A Guide to Living Fully with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome for Parents, Professionals, and You! – Book by Jerry Newport
- Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism – book by Tom Fields-Meyerand Barry M Prizant