I was once where you are now. Looking back, it seemed like one day, the list of our son’s odd behaviors just seemed like quirks, the next day, it was a problem for his kindergarten teacher, and suddenly we were on on a conveyor belt towards diagnosis, and intervention.
We were lucky to get pointed towards a neuropsychologist who was a friend of a friend, so we felt confident in being treated ethically. With all of the services that a diagnosis recommends as essential, it’s hard not to worry that children are seen as dollar signs for all the professionals who specialize in their care.
There was one big thing that was missing on that neuropsychologist’s report, something that I think everyone should know about, and that is the importance of finding a good family therapist. Take a good look at your spouse. One or the other of you, or possibly both of you, could start to struggle with anxiety or depression over your child’s diagnosis. How can you best support your spouse? Yourself? If your spouse’s coping mechanism is denial, insisting on getting services could drive you apart. Having a professional help educate and mediate between the two of you could be helpful, so it’s not all on you.
Your child is still the same wonderful being s/he was before the diagnosis, but dreams and expectations for his/her future are potentially changed. Your relationship with your spouse could be challenged. The workload of taking your child to get treatments is stressful. Trying to stay on top of educating yourself about treatments can be overwhelming. Juggling all of that is very difficult even if one of you is a stay-at-home parent. If you’re both working, it can feel like over-the-top stress. I understand and those feelings well. You’re not alone.
The expectations placed on autistic spectrum families is high. Our kids don’t always act in ways that make them, or the rest of their stressed out family members, welcome at family get-togethers or friends’ parties. Maybe individual counseling is necessary to help each parent cope with that stress. There’s nothing like an intact, happy family for providing security and consistency for your autistic spectrum child. Think of therapy like an insurance policy for maintaining an intact family. However expensive therapy seems, it’s nothing compared to the cost of divorce, and the splitting of resources.
I say this as the partner who insisted on services, who didn’t understand the depth of my spouse’s sense of loss, depression, and denial. I’m someone who has always insisted on finding the root cause of any problem, and (after a whole lot of fear, paralysis, and possibly drama) taking action. Perhaps, with such different styles, we were doomed anyway, but I’d like to think getting counseling started at that point might have made a big difference. The more successful outcomes I'm aware of were in families who saw therapists.
So if you have an autistic spectrum child, think about family counseling. I wish someone had suggested it to me. One last thing to keep in mind is to be kind to yourself. Life is about trying and learning, so give yourself a big hug for how hard you try and how far you've come. You are the best advocate your child has. Be kind to yourself by pacing yourself. You’ll get where your child needs you to be. One day at a time.