An autism diagnosis can leave us paralyzed with fear for our children’s future. However, these things will help you and your family survive autism:
- Don’t be in denial for too long. We all do this. My denial cost us valuable time. We all hope our kids are misdiagnosed and want it to be anything else. Back then I didn’t think autism was treatable. I told that there was no cure, no recovery or hope with autism. So I convinced myself that my son didn’t really have autism and he probably was the next genius like Albert Einstein or Thomas Edison. They were late talkers and a little different. What I didn’t realize was we were already card-carrying members of the A-club and how many other parents were having similar thoughts about their kids.
- When a treatment sounded too good to be true, it was. There are no magic fixes for autism. We went from doctor to doctor searching for the “cure.” It is almost impossible to avoid the snake oil salesmen that are on every corner trying to sell you the Cure of the Week. This multi-million dollar business is founded on the fears of anxious and desperate parents like us. In my more rational moments I knew that, but it still didn’t stop me from looking for that “instant” fix.
- Treating autism medically only made it possible for my child to learn. We used Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to catch him up on all he missed. Learn ABA techniques from your provider. That way your child will get ABA all throughout his day in the most natural settings. We mostly ignored the behaviors we wanted to eliminate and reinforced the ones we wanted to keep. When he didn’t understand something, school was immediately in session and his classroom was wherever we happened to be.
- Motivation is the key to success with any ABA program. Figuring out what motivates our children is sometimes difficult. What motivates our children may not be the same as other kids. We used what our son loved to teach him. In other words electric plugs, light switches, elevators, cars, computers, sharks, or technology were part of every lesson.
- Ignoring the negative and reinforcing the positive works on husbands too. I wish I had known then what I know now. There would have been a lot less arguing, if I had used ABA techniques on my husband. But back then I was too overwhelmed to realize my husband needed attention too. Use what your husband loves to help him get on the same page. What do men love? Good food, respect, and sex. If any of you husbands get lucky tonight, you have me to thank!
- The effect all of this had on his “typical” sister was a constant concern. Ryan got more than his share of the attention. So we made our daughter part of the solution. Meg was one of Ryan’s most effective therapists and in charge of pretend play. She was better at playing than the rest of us who had forgotten how to pretend. His sister was also the fashion police. Cute haircuts and the right clothes helped Ryan be accepted by his peers. My sense of high fashion was tie-dye and sweat pants, so my daughter said I couldn’t have that job!
- Make time for your other children. Megan knew that at least once a week it would be just the two of us. Every Saturday night we watched her favorite TV show while my husband took Ryan somewhere. All week long, Meg and I would whisper and plan for our special time. We stashed cookies and candy her brother couldn’t eat in secret hiding places. When Saturday finally arrived, we cuddled and ate junk food until our stomachs ached. Frank would keep Ryan busy and out of our hair with one of their adventures. They would visit the plugs in the hardware store or ride the elevators in the local hotels.
Marcia Hinds is the author of I Know You’re In There: winning our war against autism. This inspirational book is the story of her son’s recovery. Ryan is now an engineer at a major aerospace company. Marcia has a degree in sociology and psychology from UCLA and is a credentialed teacher. But Marcia’s most important qualification is that her family beat autism. You can preview her book at autism-and-treatment.com
All profits from her book go to spread the word that AUTISM IS TREATABLE.