by Jacki Edry
Receiving a diagnosis of autism can be very confusing. Within the blink of an eye, an ordinary family is bombarded with a bunch of names that create a whirlpool of mixed emotions. These often include fear, anger, confusion and anxiety. Along with this, sometimes people experience a feeling of great relief at finally having a name for the unusual symptoms that they have watched develop in front of their eyes.
One thing I think is for certain, though- I can’t imagine that any person remains the same after hearing the diagnosis of an ASD. The question is how they decide to change their life in light of the news.
Once overcoming the initial shock of diagnosis, it is important to figure out how to proceed. This can be a major challenge, which begins with trying to understand what the diagnosis of autism really means. Sometimes I think that doctors need to provide parents with a glossary of all of the autism-related terminology that they will need to understand almost immediately. Such a glossary could help to familiarize people with the words that will be thrown around in almost every professional setting that they will find themselves in. It could perhaps shed a bit of light on diagnostic terms such as ASD’s, PDD, autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and the likes. It would help to familiarize people with the names of different treatments, such as ABA, Options, Floor Time, Verbal Behavior, and so on. As far as my experience has been, doctors don’t usually take the time to provide such a learning tool, and parents need to start researching things on their own.
There are so many different terms, and so much to learn, that I dare to make an unusual suggestion. I think that the best thing to do after receiving a diagnosis is to simply stop and breathe. And then it’s time to figure out what is really wrong with your child. The words and terminology that you will hear are just that, and they might just prove to be practically meaningless to you. For example, if you line up ten kids in a room who have been diagnosed with PDD, you may see some similarities. But you will see a ton of differences. So the diagnosis is not so important in relation to how you will actually decide to treat your child. A diagnosis is necessary to enable you to get services, but it does not really give you a lot of helpful information as to how to best help your child to overcome his difficulties. In order to figure this out, I suggest that you take into consideration the following concept.
Tip 2- Become a Scientist
What will help you to understand your child is to put everything aside and to start observing him. You will need to assess what he is or isn’t doing, and then you should try to figure out why he might be doing each particular thing. In short, you will need to become a scientist.
It is important to keep in mind that your child does things for a reason, and that the behaviors are often a symptom of something that is not working correctly. When you go to choose a treatment plan, you might want to find something that addresses the root of the problem, as opposed to a program that addresses strictly behavioral issues.
It is well known that ASD’s usually come in combination with a faulty sensory processing system. Examples of this can be poor auditory processing, hypersensitivity to tactile or auditory stimulation, a lack of spatial awareness and more. Finding out which senses aren’t processing information correctly is a good place to start analyzing your child. The more data that you gather, the easier will be to decide how to start treatment. I suggest that you concentrate on the “what” and “why” to begin with, as opposed to looking at what is considered to be appropriate or inappropriate behavior.
Throughout the almost 12 years that I have been observing my son, I have noticed an amazing thing. The things that he concentrates on are the exact things that he needs to work on. He has an intrinsic knowledge of what he needs to focus on. If we begin with him where he is at and then expand upon what he is doing to include things that we want him to focus on, we strike gold.
I am well aware of the fact that I am not the first person to make this observation. Treatment methodologies, such as the unique system used at the International Center for the Enhancement of Learning Potential in Jerusalem, Floor Time and Options all take this into account. Although this concept is certainly not something that I have discovered, it is something that I see in action every day. What I want to stress is the importance of its value.
In conclusion, I would like to reinforce the few critical points that I have mentioned in this article. Once you begin to recover from the initial shock of hearing a diagnosis, you will begin a long and fascinating journey, during which you will discover many new things about yourself and your child. If you take the time to stop and observe your child’s behavior, it will help you to understand the best way to begin formulating a treatment plan. And remember to keep in mind you should never underestimate your child’s ability to find the exact tools to help himself. He can certainly become his own- and your own- best teacher.
*The use of the word “his” throughout the article was strictly for the convenience of the reader. Please note that all concepts are equally relevant for both males and females.