According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), about 1 in 68 children has been identified as being autistic, with boys being approximately 4.5 times more likely to be diagnosed than girls. The latter detail is still being debated, as autism diagnosis criteria were developed primarily with data from boys, autism presents differently in girls, and girls may be better at masking their difficulties in order to fit in with their peers; all of which may mean that the occurrence of autism is even higher.
The increased diagnosis of autism means that many families are struggling to understand and come to terms with what this means for their child and their child’s future. The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism published an article earlier this year on 13 next steps for parents after and autism diagnosis. They are:
- Give yourself time to adjust.
- Give the people around you time to adjust, and keep them in the loop.
- Give yourself time to process information critically.
- Give yourself time to learn which organizations and people to trust.
- Give yourself time to figure out what autism means for your child.
- Give yourself time to figure out what communication looks like for your child.
- Give yourself time to figure out which supports, schools, therapies, and environments will help your child succeed.
- Give yourself the space to be flexible about needs, and pick your battles.
- Give yourself time to find autistic role models for your child.
- Give yourself time to think about shared traits.
- Give your child space to grow and change.
- Give yourself time to figure out what your child really enjoys.
- Give yourself time to plan for your child’s future without you.
An autism diagnosis can be a relief that the challenges you and your child have been facing have an explanation. It can also bring worry and concern for your child’s future. Be sure to read the full article for details and resources linked to each of the above points. There is a growing community of autistic teenagers and adults online sharing their experiences and speaking up for others on the spectrum that can also help a family understand what an autism diagnosis means (see the #ActuallyAutistic hashtag on Twitter).