Don’t be Afraid of the Myths and Misconceptions about Autism.
Parents often feel sad, afraid and confused when they learn their child has an autism spectrum disorder, and It’s no wonder — autism is often portrayed as a grim, lifelong disability, from which there is no hope of recovery.
Of course, these expectations are based on outdated information about people who grew up a generation ago, when only the most severe cases were diagnosed, and treatment was practically nonexistent. Unfortunately, parents are still given this outdated information, presented as if it’s still accurate and relevant in our present day.
These misconceptions lead to more fear, more sadness, limited expectations, and feelings of incompetence in parents about how to best help their child. As a result, some parents rely entirely on other people to work with their child and to make decisions for their child, instead of trusting their own instincts, knowledge, and abilities. Parents are their child’s best resource, yet somehow that’s not the message they’re getting from the experts.
Don’t be Afraid to Believe in Your Child’s Potential.
Each child has their own unique, unknown potential. Everyone who works with your child must believe in his ability to learn, grow, and have a bright future.
With effective intervention, the vast majority of children experience improvement, ranging all the way from slight recovery to complete recovery, and everything in-between. The degree of recovery a child experiences depends primarily on his unique potential, combined with whatever learning opportunities he experiences.
Learning opportunities are not just teaching style and content alone. A child's overall environment and expectations are also an integral part of his learning experience.
Knowing these things, we can do three very powerful things for our child:
1. We can love our child as he is now, and provide a positive, nurturing environment.
2. We can keep a completely open mind as to how far our child can go.
3.We can present lots of positive opportunities for learning and growth.
If we do these things, our child will have the opportunity to truly fulfill his unique potential.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions.
If your child has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, it’s important to ask questions. Ask as many as you need in order to feel confident in your understanding of the disorder. Even if you get most of your initial questions answered, you may find there are still many questions that no one can answer conclusively, because in many ways autism research is still in its infancy. Researchers are still gathering information regarding cause, prognosis, and what interventions are most effective.
Don’t Be Afraid to Explore Your Options.
Get to know all your options. It takes some time, but continue to seek opinions and advice from people with different backgrounds in autism. Even after your initial questions have been answered, it’s still a good idea to consult with additional people with different types of knowledge and expertise.
For instance, you may want to ask a few different doctors, psychologists, teachers, therapists, and parents with contrasting approaches to autism about their opinions and experience. Our understanding of autism is continually evolving, and one person may have knowledge that another does not.
As you gather more and more relevant information, you will make better and better decisions for your child. Remember, no decision is carved in stone. In fact, you’ll probably change direction and switch approaches a few times, and that’s okay. It’s all part of the process of learning what works best for your child, and adapting to your child’s changing needs.
Don’t Be Afraid to Work with Your Child.
Never believe that the experts have all the answers and that you should not get involved with your child’s treatment program. Talk with the experts to learn more about what you can do at home with your child. Do further research by reading books and articles on autism, attending classes and conferences, and talking to other parents.
You know your child better than anyone else. In addition, you have an undeniable bond with your child that no one else could ever possibly have. Take advantage of your bond to teach your child, build his self-esteem, and explore treatment options you feel will work for your child.
Regardless of their potential, children will seldom go beyond the expectations of their parents. We can't know how far our children can go, but we can take the lid off the box of low expectations, by having faith in their ability to learn, and by providing the loving environment necessary for them to achieve their highest potential.
Sandra Sinclair, www.autismvoice.com