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5 Things to Know about the Mother of a Child Diagnosed with Autism – Part 2

April 3, 2011

This post is the second in the 5-part series in honor of World Autism Awareness Day.  To read the series introduction and first post, see:

Part 1: She may feel relief upon the receipt of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis for her child.

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Part 2:  She may experience the conflicting emotions of grief and hope.

While grief is natural part of any special needs parent’s journey, it is experienced and processed differently for the family affected by autism.  Every child with or without a disability is unique.  And no special needs diagnosis affects any two children the same way.  However, the range of possible outcomes varies even more dramatically for the autism diagnosis compared to other disorders and disabilities.  In fact, using the term “difference” rather than “disability” is often more appropriate when describing how autism has manifested itself in some individuals.

It is important to remember that only 41% of individuals with autism have an intellectual disability (and these disabilities can be severe).  But what about the other 59% diagnosed with an ASD?  If we did an in-depth study of some of society’s greatest contributors, I think we would find many of them had signs of an ASD.  Billionaire Bill Gates has never been applauded for his movie-star-like social skills.  Rather, he is known for obsessive-like passions and an unusual aptitude for complicated technology.  Many observers actually debate whether or not Gates would have been diagnosed with an ASD as a child.   Temple Grandin is another example of a person with autism who has achieved notable success and earned endearing admiration.  Can’t we all think of an adult who is a bit quirky or socially awkward, yet living life to the fullest? (Yes, I see some wives raising their hands and thinking of their husbands!)

So, should a mother grieve the life she envisioned for her child?  Or should she buckle herself in for a bumpy ride…remaining hopeful and doing everything humanly possible to help her child reach their full potential?  Sadly, the pressure is great to keep silent and process her emotions alone.  If she places an emphasis on hope, friends may accuse of her of being in denial.  Conversely, if she grieves publicly or openly conveys her concerns, she may shape others’ view of her child.  In fear of creating a self-fulfilling prophesy for her child’s future, a mother may remain tight lipped, avoiding conversations revealing her daily realities.

When engaging friends who parent a child with autism, meet them where they are in their journey.  Give them permission to both hurt and hope. Respect a parent’s assessment of their child’s aptitude and abilities.  And recognize moments when you can be a genuine cheerleader to the mother and her child.

Want to support a mother processing her child’s autism diagnosis?  Pray for discernment!  Then consider asking her the following questions:

  • In your experience or observation, how is parenting a child with autism different than parenting a child without autism? How is it similar?
  • Reflecting on your child’s personal development, where do you see him/her growing and excelling?
  • How can I pray for you today?  How can I pray for your child today?

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Part 3:  She fears exclusion

Part 4:  She needs your respect, not your opinion or advice

Part 5:  She values action over empathy

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Some of the content in this post and the rest of this series are protected by copyright.

Thank you! – Amy Fenton Lee

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