I am so excited because I have been dreaming about this episode for so long. This is the episode that talks about the 11 Areas to Focus on After an Autism Diagnosis, which is based on the FREE GUIDE that I am giving away. When Remy was diagnosed with autism, I wished that someone would give me a manual, but nobody gave me one. So, I started to put my energy into the areas that I thought were the best use of my energy. I thought maybe I could cure autism if I just gave Remy enough therapy, and I thought if she just learned how to talk that she would be fine. But now that it has been five years, I look back at the things that have ACTUALLY made a difference and now I can write a list of things that if I were to do it over again, I would focus on. I poured my heart and soul into this guide. So I can’t wait for you to download it and absorb it.
Number 1: Mental Health
If your child just got an autism diagnosis, THE most important part to focus on is YOUR mental health. That might be surprising. You might be shaking your head.
The reason why I am saying mental health is because how you think will determine how you act and how you feel. Most likely, if your child just had an autism diagnosis, your brain isn’t functioning in the best way. You might be scared, worried, or anxious.
If you ignore what is going on in your brain so you can focus your attention on your child, all of that junk is going to be placed on your child. If you are freaked out right now, do you want those kinds of thoughts to be given to your precious little child? It is so unconscious you don’t realise the things that you think is how you behave.
Mental health, at least in my definition, is taking action doing things that are good for your brain; Eating the right foods, not watching TV that makes you depressed, not listening to certain people. If your brain is freaking out, the last thing you want to do is fill it with things that freak you out more.
Number 2: Play with your kid
For every parent that gets their autism diagnosis, their goal is to learn what to do to give their child a chance to be as independent as possible. Right? Every parent wants their child to be everything they were created to be.
Something that is more important is to play with your kid. You don’t need to learn anything, have a masters degree in child psychology, worked in a daycare, or have had kids before. Just playing with your kid will give them life skills that they can’t get anywhere else. You can run programs, therapies, aba, speech therapy, all of it. All of that isn’t bad, but just simply playing with them, rolling on the floor, splashing them with water, and playing with chalk outside. When you play with a child, their guard is down. They aren’t in a defense mode. They feel comfortable and open. It is the only state someone can be in to actually learn something.
Number 3: Self care
Self-care is mental health’s very close cousin. There is a slight difference, at least for my definition. Mental health is taking care of your brain while self care is more about doing the things for you that make you perform at your best: exercising, taking a shower, going and getting your nails or hair done, talking with girlfriends. The things that lift you up. The things that bring you utter joy.
Taking care of yourself is the kindest thing you can do for someone else. If you treat yourself like garbage and absorb yourself in anxiety and overwhelm, you cannot give your best to anybody else. You cannot pour from an empty cup. If you want to be the best mom, wife, and friend that you can be, feeling bad all the time is not going to bring out the best in you.
Number 4: Communication
Communication is one of the areas that comes harder to people with autism. One of the criteria that defines autism is lack of communication. I spent so much time wishing that Remy could tell me what was wrong. I thought if she knew words, she could tell me what she was thinking. If she just had words, she could communicate. Now that time has passed, I’ve realized that just because someone can speak doesn’t mean that they are communicating.
So, we need to learn the language of autism. If we don’t learn the language, then we will never teach our kiddos how to communicate. We have to go first, and learn them.
Listen to your child. Observe your child. Watch what they do. When they are upset, study what might make them upset. Is it the tags on their clothes? The texture of their clothes? If they are tired? If you can learn to understand your child, then they will feel heard. If you respond with what you know they are saying, they feel heard and will have less tantrums, and meltdowns. Most meltdowns stem from a lack of communication. The power of communication starts when you can listen to your child.
Number 5: Educate yourself
This one is something that doesn’t come naturally. But the power is in what you know. When you want to learn about autism, research autism, listen to people that have it, read blog posts, books, watch documentaries. Absorb the autism information. You will learn that you have the power to make the biggest difference. It’s amazing all of the different wonderful therapies and groups that are out there. They are all very valuable. If you educate yourself on everything that your child is learning and why, then between therapies when you are at home, you can understand them. If you ignore and don’t learn, you are not going to connect with your child or understand them.
Number 6: Find Support
The next area is finding support. This is going to be your lifeline in this journey. You can be surrounded by family and friends that love you and feel for you and help you out, but either way, if you are talking to someone who doesn’t have a child with autism, you are alone. They don’t get it. But there is something completely different when you have a conversation with someone who has a child just like yours. It might be why you listen to this podcast. Because listening to me is almost like having a conversation with someone who gets you. There is no substitution for that.
So, finding support with other people who are going through the same thing is so meaningful and makes such a difference. There is something to being able to be open about what is going on and not being judged. If you don’t have a support system or are in some kind of face-book group, it’s time for you to join a group or find your people. It is the difference between your sanity and you feeling completely alone and ill equipped to be a parent. It is such a game changer.
- Mental Health. Take care of that brain of yours. It’s the tool that will make all the difference in how you raise your child. Your mental health will make the difference in your child being all that they can be. Your worst fears will become reality if you don’t check what is going on in your brain.
- Play with your child. That is the best therapy you can give them. Playing with your child is a really good opportunity for someone to see your face and expressions and to learn from it. It also makes them let their guards down, and that is when learning can truly happen.
- Self-care. Go get your nails done, or take a bubble bath, or go for a run. If you don’t love yourself, and take care of yourself, you are not going to give your kids the best. If you think that other people should come first, and you are not taking care of yourself, then nobody is coming first.
- Communication. Communication starts with listening, so learn your child’s language. When you learn their language, they will start listening to you and you can teach them a whole lot easier than if there is a gap in communication.
- Educate yourself. Go enroll at the university of google. It’s your best friend. Whatever therapy you try is not going to work if you don’t educate yourself. Don’t be ignorant or say its too hard to learn; this won’t serve you or your child at all.
- Find support. Find your tribe. You will realize that you are not alone. What gets me through those hard days is knowing that I have a huge army of other parents that might not be there with me in that moment, but they are there with me in spirit. I know that there are other parents that are going through the exact same things because I talk to them every single day.