EPISODE 45: SHARING AN AUTISM DIAGNOSIS
Hello, Friends! Thanks for joining me. This is the last podcast for the 2019 season. I want to take this time to thank each and every one of you for an amazing ride in 2019 – the first official year of this podcast and the My Autism Tribe nonprofit organization. I’m really excited about all of the advocacy plans that we already have for 2020…I’ll give you a hint on a couple: plans for a residential autism community, and an entire children’s book series. Buckle up for a wild and exciting year. As we finish out this year, I thought it would be fitting to take a podcast break before we start our second season. This time is going to be used to soak in every minute with family during the holidays. I want you to do the same. Don’t worry, we’ll still be on our social platforms, encouraging, empowering and supporting our friends. And without further ado, let’s get started with this podcast. It’s a solo episode and I’m talking about receiving an autism diagnosis, and sharing this diagnosis with family, friends, coworkers, really anyone that is involved in you or your child’s life. I’ll also share some tips that I’ve learned from personal experience, in addition to tips that others have shared.
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One thing is certain, any kind of diagnosis received, whether for yourself, your child, another family member, or friend, can and will lead to questions. Three and a half years ago, my son received his autism diagnosis, and I wasn’t prepared for what followed. As many of you know, you’re immediately thrown into the unknown world jam-packed and overloaded with libraries of information – whether you want to be or not. It’s part of it. Plain and simple. The days that follow can be some pretty dark ones. As you’re wrapping your head around the very definition of autism, which let’s face it, is a pretty loose one…it’s a SPECTRUM, right? You’re asking doctors questions, asking yourself questions, and then…people start asking YOU questions. Questions that, I guarantee, you aren’t prepared for. YOU are only in the beginning stages of answering questions that you have.
I wasn’t sure how to answer most of them, and to be honest, my son’s diagnosis wasn’t something that I was even comfortable sharing with others until I had taken the time to process it. I’ve spoken with many individuals on the spectrum, heard their stories on receiving the diagnosis (sometimes much later in life), heard stories from parents on their child’s diagnosis, and all of them have had different journeys, but they also share many similarities. The most common similarity being that it was just flat out challenging to explain autism to their family and friends. And they were even undecided initially if they should say anything at all. I get it – and I bet most of you all do, too.
Autism is definitely something that people are becoming more aware of, but just as you were in the early stages of diagnosis, they may have a limited understanding of what it looks like. And there’s a lot of misinformation out there as well that has skewed people’s perceptions. Media has recently helped with overall awareness – characters being written in to scripts for films and television shows, even times with the lead character being on the spectrum. But conversations can inevitably have Rain Man throwbacks, and questions of certain savant qualities. We all know these responses to the stereotypes of what autism is, and that maybe your child doesn’t fit in that box.
A little sidebar, by the way. You’ll hear me reference “your child” throughout this, and I apologize in advance.