After the Autism Diagnosis: A Grieving Process or an Adjustment Process?

autism is stressful In the current climate of understated research findings, referenced by the much-publicized, but not-so-startling discovery that “autism is stressful for parents,” I would like to join in the trend of groundbreaking underestimation. Ready? Here goes….Autism is an adjustment process. Yep, you heard it here, in all of its lack of clarity and definition. Autism is an adjustment.

And I like the phrase. Adjustment is a much more positive descriptor than the alternatives my husband and I heard when we first learned about our son’s diagnosis. Phrases we heard were autism is a grieving process, or  a he’ll-grow-out-of-it process, or for the disenchanted, hell on earth.  

Grieving, with its related denial, anger and sadness, seems to be most similar to what many parents feel as they begin to wrap their heads, arms and hearts around autism. But unlike grieving, there is no finality, because we don’t know when or even if autism will end.  And more importantly, do we really want to grieve for our child? No! We want to celebrate him for the wonderful, atypically-normal little boy that he is. Those of us with children on the spectrum know exactly what I’m talking about. Our children are quirky and  they do need extra help,  but first and foremost, they are kids, and we love ‘em.

So we learn to adjust. All of us. Parents, teachers, the community and our own children.

Let’s hear it for understatement.

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0 thoughts on “After the Autism Diagnosis: A Grieving Process or an Adjustment Process?

  • August 10, 2009 at 12:25 am
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    Yeah, it’s not like the stork brought a Vulcan or a Klingon to your doorstep… haha.  I’m on the spectrum, and I’ve often wished I could have chosen a different family, so I guess it works both ways.

    Reply
  • August 7, 2009 at 6:56 pm
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    I agree. After the initial shock of the diagnosis, I think families begin to adjust a lot of things, like their own personal prejudices towards physically or mentally disabled persons. Your outlook on life really changes, and even the child changes. My brother is autistic but high-functioning, and from time to time he has let us realize that he knows how he’s treated a little differently because of his autism. When I was about 4 years old and my brother came home from the hospital, my mother presented him to me in a basinette, worried to death over whether I would accept him. Even back then I was a little inflexible when it came to changes in routine (I swear I have some autistic tendencies even if I haven’t been diagnosed haha). But when I saw him, I said, “Oh Mommy, he’s so beautiful. I love him.”

    I think that the best way we can adjust to having or knowing an autistic child is to love them unconditionally, because their autism is only one aspect of their entire life. They are still a kid, they still have feelings, they still have a capacity to love, and though reluctant at first, they still want to be loved. We should nurture them and be proud in who they are and what they eventually become.

    Awesome post (:

    Reply

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