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Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Parents & ASD Diagnosis: Nurturing Support And Understanding

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental condition that affects communication, behavior, and social interaction in a neurotypical world. While there is a lot to be said about what defines neurotypical behaviors as a norm, there is no doubt that individuals with ASD experience challenges when it comes to understanding and expressing emotions. Many also exhibit repetitive behaviors, and can struggle with sensory sensitivities.

While many associated autism with Rain Man, in reality ASD is a full spectrum. As a result, many individuals receive a diagnosis late in life due to the subtle nature of their unique ASD symptoms. Yet, even though symptoms may be less noticeable, it doesn’t mean people do not face challenges in their day-to-day life.

Late ASD diagnosis can bring new challenges for both the individual and their family. Many individuals explain that their loved ones are unwilling to adapt or be supportive of their diagnosis. Additionally, without early identification and intervention, children growing with ASD face difficulties when it comes to developing essential social and communication skills. This can lead to emotional and/or academic struggles in the long term. Besides, undiagnosed individuals also claim they experience high feelings of isolation, anxiety, and low self-esteem as they do not understand why they are different from their peers.

Consequently, it is important to remind parents that they can play a crucial role in the ASD diagnosis.

Photo by Juan Encalada on Unsplash

Educate yourself

Ultimately, nobody knows how to be a parent. That’s why parenting books are so popular, encouraging parents to develop soft parenting techniques and targeted communication.

But it can also be a good idea for new parents to educate themselves to the different development stages of children. Being familiar with essential development stages can help you recognize any deviation or “anomalies” in your child’s behavior. For instance, early signs of ASD can include delayed speech, limited eye contact, repetitive actions, and a preference for solitary play. This is crucial because another example of a common concern is autism concentration. How does autism affect concentration or how does it affect the quality of children's lives is a key question for many parents and educators. Many children with autism experience overwhelming sensory input, which can make it difficult for them to focus on tasks. By understanding these challenges, parents can better support their children by creating environments that reduce sensory distractions and enhance their ability to concentrate.

Verify your suspicions

Noticing development issues that may look like ASD does not mean your child has autism. But you can go ahead and validate your observation through tailored screening tools, such as the M-CHAT-R test. This modified screening tool is revised to help identify potential signs of ASD among young children aged between 16 and 30 months.

The screening tool is a questionnaire that can be filled up by parents or carers about the child’s behavior. While it is important to note that this does not give a definite answer, it can provide guidance towards seeking a diagnosis.

Share the news with family and friends

When parents receive an ASD diagnosis for their child, they can feel awkward sharing the news with their social circle. Nevertheless, it is crucial to be open and discuss the diagnosis honestly with your relatives. This fosters further acceptance by educating others to the neurodevelopmental condition.

Additionally, it is essential to create a supportive environment for your child. This will ensure that your child’s needs are respected, giving them a safe space during overwhelming situations and advocating for accommodations that will enhance their development journey.

Parents play a pivotal role in advocating for their child’s well-being and ensuring they can receive an early and accurate ASD diagnosis. While this is not to say that parents should bear the responsibility of a late diagnosis, building awareness and knowledge of what to expect from neurotypical development can drive early diagnoses and support.

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