How Does A Parent React When Their Child is Diagnosed With Autism
Other parents can’t help but ask: How does a parent react when their child is diagnosed with autism? This is a valid question since not all parents could experience what parents of children with autism experience on a daily basis.
So, exactly how does a parent react when their child is diagnosed with autism? Your initial reaction to autism would be colored mainly by your perception of autism. To many parents, autism is a problem, a curse or a punishment from God or a higher power. They feel disappointment, self-pity and disgust. Other parents would take their negative emotions to the point of abusing, neglecting and abandoning their child. To others, it is a chance to embrace lifelong parenthood or to take care of a special individual who has the potential to be productive, intelligent and skillful (Some children with autism are actually ‘savants’.) as well as loving and caring. Some parents actually feel lifelong fulfillment in taking care of children with autism who actually reciprocate love and social interaction.
In answering the question: “How does a parent react when their child is diagnosed with autism?”, we can’t help but go back to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ Stages of Death and Dying since, this is generally how people deal with their feelings as they go through the end stage of acceptance.
The Negative Emotions: Denial and Anger
Initially, how does a parent react when their child is diagnosed with autism?
Some parents feel the initial reactions of denial, shame, fear, guilt and anger after knowing that their child has autism. Denial and anger are actually a normal emotions to the stages of grieving. It is important to remember that denial is a normal stage of grieving that is directed towards the acceptance of the fact that a child has autism. Also, it is essential to know that many parents fear autism in their child; therefore, it is likely that their emotions will be initially geared towards the unlikelihood of autism.
Parents at this stage also find reasons to blame for the circumstances sometimes to the point of abuse, neglect and abandonment of the child with autism. The finality of the diagnosis also brings about the emotions of anger, shame and guilt especially because of the fact that many experts believe that autism is a genetic disorder, that autism can be acquired during pregnancy or that it can be acquired through vaccinations. Even then, parents feel that the fault is theirs even if the genetic and intra-uterine circumstances were uncontrollable. Some parents also go into self-isolation because of the overwhelming mix of emotions. It is important to tell parents at this stage that it is not their fault, that they are not alone and that they could do something about their situation.
The Mixed Emotions: Bargaining and Depression
After the initial reactions of denial and anger, how does a parent react when their child is diagnosed with autism?
Parents begin to go through the short phase of bargaining and the later phase of depression. Parents strive to ‘bargain’ with God or a higher power and seek help and support during this stage. They tend to find for treatments and therapies to cure and put an end to their child’s autism. At this stage, parents feel achieve a state of hope and optimism towards finding this cure. In the end, they fall into disappointment and depression because of the impossibility to find for this ‘cure’.
Overwhelming sadness follows positivity and optimism because the parent’s disappointment and struggle in finding for an ultimate solution to their child’s autism. Depression is usually backed up by a feeling of exhaustion and hopelessness. Parents at this stage usually give up. At this stage, it is still important for parents to get help and support from support groups and other parents of children with autism.
Finally, after all the negative and mixed emotions, how does a parent react when their child is diagnosed with autism?
In the end, a parent arrives at the acceptance of autism. This is usually a quiet and reflective time where a parent deals with living and caring with his or her child with autism. Parents become more knowledgeable, skillful and informed about how to handle children with autism because they have reached a level of clarity and acceptance to this reality. Also, at this time, some parents may participate in support groups in helping other parents out with handling their children with autism.