My 2.5-year-old daughter has a working diagnosis of autism. I’m finding it incredibly difficult to get my head around it. I do not want to sound unsympathetic, but how did this happen? Why are so many children being diagnosed with autism now? How much of this is a medical issue and how much of this is an environmental issue? My concern also is that if my daughter receives an autism diagnosis, how do I parent her? Popular culture has enough bad parenting advice, I wonder if the autism advice would be just as bad? I want my daughter to reach her full potential and autism not to be a label to excuse bad behaviors.
Hi and thank you for reaching out. My son received his autism diagnosis at about the same age, and I too remember being very overwhelmed by the road ahead. Here’s the thing - even if we could answer your questions about why so many children are being diagnosed, or if this is more medical or environmental, etc., it does not change the way forward. We can’t go back in time and change anything so don't waste your energy overthinking about the how or why.
The best way to help your daughter is to focus on the areas of need she has right now and help her to overcome and push through those developmental challenges. You are right, autism should not be a label to excuse bad behavior that is otherwise controllable, however, an autism diagnosis can be the reason why a child has a harder time learning how to control their behavior. There is a difference.
Autism is a spectrum disorder so what your daughter needs right now can look very different than what another child with the same diagnosis needs. Don’t worry about what popular culture has to say about any form of parenting. Focus on what your pediatrician says she needs. The primary roles in parenting any child are to provide for the safety, security, and overall well-being of the child. Making sure they are loved, have food, and shelter, and are developing appropriately is part of that. While a diagnosis like autism can be overwhelming, getting it early means that your daughter has the advantage of time and access to early intervention on her side. The more intervention she has now the better her outcome later. A few examples of early intervention could be speech and occupational therapy, play therapy, and special education preschool.
Autism support groups can be helpful in helping you to connect with other parents with kids on the spectrum. I encourage you to grow your village of support by finding a group so you will have other parents you can relate to. Many groups still meet virtually.
As a Christian, I believe that “because that is just the way God made them” is the answer to how did this happen or how did a child end up with an autism diagnosis. Instead of focusing on what is in the past focus on your daughter’s future and what you stated in your very last sentence. Center moving forward on helping your daughter reach her full potential and don’t allow autism to be an excuse for not doing so.
Please reach out if you need further guidance or have any follow-up questions.
Certified Parenting Coach