Monarch Center for Autism Cleveland Ohio

Help Yourself Adjust

To help you adjust29 in the meantime, there are some strategies that can help you. Psychologist Judith Grossman, of the Ackerman Institute in New York City, recommends a preventionist approach. In other words, don't let yourself fall apart. While you may be on an emotional roller-coaster ride, your child needs you now more than ever.

  • Give yourself time to heal. You may need to take time off from work while you are grieving. Let yourself cry, scream, or anything else that helps you release your emotions.
  • Write in a journal. Louise DeSalvo, in Writing as a Way of Healing, notes that studies have shown that "writing that describes traumatic events and our deepest thoughts and feelings about them . . . is linked with improved immune function, improved emotional and physical health," and positive behavioral changes.
  • Begin treatment for your child immediately. Bryna Siegel, in The World of the Autistic Child, writes that "starting with treatment is the best way to work through the acceptance of the diagnosis. . . . The sooner the treatment begins, the sooner there will be some positive change in the child and the parents can begin to see that the child's situation is not hopeless."
  • Talk about your feelings. Discussions with someone you trust, whether a partner, friend, family member, or religious leader, can be a tremendous relief.
  • Learn facts about autism. With information, you will feel more capable to make the right decisions for your child. Take care not to become overwhelmed, though. You don't need to solve all your child's problems at once.
  • Maintain daily routines. Routines bring order to family life at a time when it may feel chaotic and overwhelming.
  • Join a support group. Find other parents who understand what you're going through and can give you advice and direct you to resources. Don't let yourself become isolated.
  • Do something for yourself every day. Gardening, exercise, art, prayer, anything that makes you feel good.
  • Don't forget to appreciate your child's gifts. Don't let the word "autism" cloud your feelings toward your child. This is the same little person you loved and appreciated before the diagnosis.
  • Get help when necessary. Following the above strategies should help keep you from falling apart. However, if you do find yourself so overwhelmed that you are unable to function or care for your child or children, consider seeing a trained psychotherapist who can help you work through your difficult emotions.

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