Once upon a time, my husband and I were afraid to utter the word ‘autism.’ We thought that merely saying the word aloud would make autism a reality for our son, Jacob. Like many parents who suspect or learn their child has autism, we were in denial big time. After denial, we experienced a period of grief. But in time, we realized that whether Jacob had autism or not, our goal as parents was to help him reach his fullest potential and live the best life possible. That’s when we rolled up our sleeves and got busy.
Sharing the News: We began telling our families and friends about Jacob’s diagnosis. Some relatives had questions we couldn’t answer. Some friends wanted to help but we didn’t know how or what they could do. Yet whatever responses we got were almost a relief because they got us openly talking about autism—they got us over our fear. They got us ‘unstuck’ and focused us on beginning to build a support team.
Knowledge is Power: Two seconds after getting Jacob’s diagnosis, we realized that there was no instructional manual that came with it. We were on our own. Scary. My husband and I had zero experience with autism so we had to begin educating ourselves. We did online research, read articles, sought out parent-friendly websites and support groups, and started attending local autism workshops and Milestones’ conference. The one thing we soon stumbled upon was not knowing what information was trustworthy. Would some therapies offer false hope? Be a waste of money? Maybe even be harmful to Jacob? We quickly learned that we should focus on ‘evidence-based’ strategies and interventions only as these were backed by studies and reliable research.