Angel’s autism diagnosis thrust me into a world that was foreign to me. A world that was full of unknowns. As a community, we have no problem telling others when we have conditions like diabetes, arthritis, or even hypertension. In fact, we shout these diagnoses from the rooftops. However, some families decide to keep their child’s autism diagnosis a secret.
I am a firm believer that open communication can lead to early autism diagnoses for our children. When we are not open, this can result in our children being evaluated for autism at a later age. When we are not open, we end up being in the dark about services and resources that can help our children progress. Angel was diagnosed with autism when he was four-years old. When we arrived on the autism scene, other children had been getting services and help from as early as 18-months old.
To my fellow parents with children on the autism spectrum, we cannot raise our children in a vacuum. Autism is not a dirty secret. It is a reality. The more we know and share about autism, the more empowered we can become as a community. This empowerment can give us the courage to spread awareness to our friends and family. When our friends and family are aware, then there is an increased chance that they can provide support and be compassionate.
When I shared the news of Angel’s autism diagnosis with others, I heard it all. Some people told me to “Leave it at the altar. Don’t worry. It will be okay.” Although these words came from a good place, they did little to help me cope with this life-changing reality.
So how can you offer support to someone who is raising a child with autism or another developmental disability? Here are some tips to get you started:
- Show sensitivity when discussing people with special needs. The “short bus” jokes and calling people retarded can be hurtful. People with special needs are not and should not be a punch line.
- Support a cause that benefits people with autism.
- Show compassion and empathy when a child with autism or any special-needs child has a meltdown. A meltdown is not a tantrum. There is a difference.
- Offer to help by giving your time and/or emotional support to a parent of a child with special needs.
- Please do not minimize our feelings about our child’s diagnosis.
- Respect the way we choose to raise our child.
- Teach your children to be kind to people with disabilities.
BMWK – What would you add to my list? Are developmental disabilities openly discussed in your community?
Check back weekly for additional articles from Kpana Kpoto as she shares her experiences and what she learns as she raises her son that has been diagnosed with Autism.