To the parent whose child was just diagnosed with autism 

Hi moms and dads 🙂

A little muse tapped me on the shoulder today to let me know that somebody out there needed to read this today.  Naturally, when that muse speaks, I oblige.  Because somehow, somewhere, she’s usually right.

So come on over and have a seat, and let’s talk.

You’ve just come from the psychologist’s or pediatrician’s office.  They said the A-word.  In connection with your child.  Or rather, they dropped it on you and it might have weighed a ton of bricks.

You might be devastated, grieving for a child that will never be like you imagined.  You might have felt all your dreams evaporate and vanish, like ghosts.

Relax.  Seriously, it’s OK.  You’ve got this.  And even though you might not feel that way yet, you will.

Because autism isn’t a boogeyman, nor is it even much of a disorder.  There’s an entire, new revolution taking place involving what autism is and how we think of it.

I’m here to have the conversation with you that you need to have.  The one that all the medical and psychological professionals in the world can’t have with you, and never will.

I’m autistic.

This obviously means two things.  First, it means that I was an autistic child.  Second, it means that I’m an autistic adult.

So, I’m like you in my adulthood (hell, I’m probably older than you 😉 ), and I’m like your child in that we share the same neurotype.  I’m going to try to use that to your advantage and help build a bridge between you and your child.

The first thing I’d like to say is…

Thought #1 – Relax.  Don’t panic.  Seriously, it’s going to be OK.

An autism spectrum diagnosis is not the end of the world.  In fact, it’s the beginning of a new one.

Your child is the same person they were before.  They’re different from you.  Every child is different from their parents, whether they’re autistic or not.  Yours just happens to run a different “operating system” in their brain. It’s like Windows vs Mac; both are legitimate systems; there are some functions that one performs more efficiently than the other, but neither is inherently better or worse than the other.  They’re just different, and they don’t always see eye to eye.  It takes extra effort to decode each other’s messages sometimes.

Thought #2 – Try not to grieve!  Autism is lifelong, not a life sentence.

Autistic children grow up to become autistic adults, and fine ones at that.  There are certain outward behaviors that autistic kids grow out of, as they learn to express themselves in different (and more constructive) ways.  Your child will blaze their own trail, walk their own path, and carve out their own space in the world.

As an autistic person, I can say that autism itself is not a bad thing!  It’s not a monster.  It didn’t steal me.  I’m not “locked in”.  I’m self-employed.  I’m in a longtime committed relationship (I’m married).  I live with my partner and two lovely cats.  On the surface, my life looks a lot like yours.

My inner world is a little more different.  I’m emotionally extra-sensitive.  Our home is designed to be comfortable, and friendly to my sensory sensitivity.  I have my own sets of quirky interests and talents.  I have a tight inner circle of friends.

Your child will not be a carbon copy of you or me.  They will be their own person.  With your unwavering support and encouragement, they will go on to evolve and develop their own talents and interests.  With your unconditional love, they can be happy kids and grow up to become well-adjusted adults.

Thought #3 – Consider alternatives, but consider the right ones.

Consider alternative viewpoints and perspectives (preferably autism-positive ones), alternative schooling (not necessarily special ed), alternative communication styles, and so on.

Forget alternative therapies and cures.  If your child is gluten intolerant like me, or does have heavy metal exposure (also like me), please know that these are common, and they’re going to create dysfunction in anyone who has these issues, whether they’re on the autism spectrum or not.  Since your child is autistic, they may manifest this dysfunction differently.  And by all means, go ahead and get that resolved.  But please know that going gluten-free or detoxifying heavy metals will not cure your child’s autism anymore than it would cure a non-autistic person of their non-autism.  The gluten or mercury did not cause or contribute to autism itself.  Your child will be healthier when you remove physiological triggers of inflammation or discomfort, but they will still be just as autistic.

In other words, separate the autism from the physiological dysfunction; don’t separate the autism from the person.

This is also why I follow up the topic sentence of this section with, “in fact, go light on all therapies meant for autism”.  This is because they usually do more harm than good.  They attempt to stifle the autistic person and reward them for masking and denying who they truly are.

Most of the “treatments” or therapies designed to make autistic kids seem “more normal” do real psychological damage.  And that is a life sentence.  Just scour Google for “why I left ABA” or “ABA + PTSD” and you’ll get a really good idea of what happens to autistic people.  Please, don’t do that to your child.

And be extremely wary of (read: run away from) anyone who claims to cure or treat autism or somehow “improve” it.  I should know; I’m a doctor who specializes in integrative medicine for chronic health conditions, and I hear my colleagues tout junk like this all the time.  They act like they have all the answers.  They don’t.  The truth is, neither do I, but as an autistic person myself, who lives “with” autism every day, I have infinitely more answers and knowledge of autism than they do.

Thought #4 – Let your child off the hook–sometimes.

An autistic person, children included, may appear to be lazy, defiant, obstinate, air-headed, “out of it” or any of the other things I was accused of being throughout my life, when in reality, they’re recharging from a stressful day, launching into a self-defense mode, experiencing anxiety, social exhaustion, or sensory overload.  Since most people’s brains won’t finish developing until they reach the age of 25, a 5- or 10-year-old person probably won’t be able to think as clearly or logically as an adult.  As with everything else, your child’s autism does not cause this (it’s true for everyone), but it may “color” it – that is to say that their individual traits will probably manifest differently.

So when it comes to physical activity or accomplishing tasks, and your child seems to be moving too slowly, please consider that they might not be able to get up and go just then, at that moment.  Consider that they will develop according to their own timetable, move and get things done at their own pace, and so on.  Asperger’s/autism seems to have its own schedule and autistic people have invisible drains on our systems.

The truth is, most of us can do everything that a non-autistic person can do; it’s just that it tends to require more energy and extra time to plan things out.

This is why it’s not a good idea to let them off the hook for everything, all the time.  Do nudge them, gently but firmly.

Thought #5 – Never assume anything.

When an autistic person appears lazy, don’t assume that they are.  The same goes for practically everything.  A garden-variety tantrum or adolescent angst/anger issues may actually be signs of anxiety or sensory overload or some other feeling of being overwhelmed.  Outward appearances can be deceptive.

Thought #6 – This is why it’s usually a good idea to overhaul one’s home environment.

You know that flickering fluorescent light that you hardly notice anymore, or the whine or rattle of an air conditioning unit that you can’t hear?  It’s often akin to torture for an autistic person, especially a kid, whose hearing is keenly sensitive.

They may not even be able to see the flickering of the fluorescent light, but their nervous system does.  All the child knows is that they feel very uncomfortable and hate being in that room.  They get the urge to flee to avoid that sensory input or stimulus and if they can’t, they might become unexpectedly combative.

That’s called the fight-or-flight response, and it’s hardwired into the nervous system of every living being.  Autism isn’t causing the problem, but it does increase nervous system function, and it does color the behavior.

Echoes on hardwood floors, bright sunlight, scratchy clothing material or tags, or even heat or cold can pose issues.

When an autistic person has a meltdown (which can happen at any time, at any age), consider that there may be real discomfort involved.  Physical ailments like headaches, skin itching, nausea, low blood sugar, dehydration, sleep deprivation, or general malaise can all be culprits.  Emotional stressors can play a major role, too – bullying, a feeling of incompetence, criticism, social exhaustion (excess social interaction or being out among crowds for too long) or a change in routine or sudden change of plans can throw an autistic person for a loop.  Meltdowns are usually not due to just any one thing.  And although it may look and feel directed at you, it probably isn’t.

Thought #7 – Children develop at their own pace, into their own unique individual.

The best strategy I know of is to love them where they are, accept who they are, give them time and space, give them latitude and leeway, give them freedom, and give them love and encouragement.

Yep, there’s a lot of “give”s in the previous sentence.  Because after all, that’s what parenting is.  This goes double for parenting children on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum. ❤

Related Posts:

Praising us for acting neurotypical is *not* Asperger’s / autism acceptance ~ April 15, 2017

Asperger’s / autism as illustrated in a Mac-Windows analogy ~ September 24, 2016

They thought I was lazy…when I was just actually-autistic ~ September 18, 2016

The ‘bell curve’ of acting and masking in Asperger’s / autistic people ~ October 16, 2016

Dear Mom: Happy Mother’s Day!  Love, an Aspie ~ May 10, 2016



  1. This is a great post. Something all parents should read. You said it well, “Autism is lifelong, not a life sentence”. So many parents feel they are failures if their God gifted child doesn’t fit societies template. Having worked with the disabled my career folks don’t know what they miss out on by closing their minds to this.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so kindly for your lovely comment! So true 💖. If parents let their children blossom on their own, who knows how large and beautiful their lives will become? The sky is the limit; those children may become someone bigger and more influential than their parents could have dreamed of 🌺🌷🌺

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Yes!!! Thank you! 🙆From the moment I began writing on autism, *this* was the message I have longed to send. ( it was the only true intent of my book, in fact, though publishers get their own ideas. lol) You just encapsulated my heart as parent and wife to amazing autistics and as an autistic adult seeking to finally embrace who I am. 😘😘😘I won’t lie-first hearing your child’s diagnosis *can* be overwhelming. For me, it was less about what they would or would not be. Heck, I always loved who they are, world’s expectations be damned. Rather, my fear centered more on the question of whether *I* could be what they needed me to be. I was newly single, newly back in the workforce, grappling with a fresh version of a lifelong struggle, and still not able to fully identify it then. Though I understood my kids better than anyone, I doubted I could be strong enough. And, at times, some of the things the powers that be wanted me to “work” on with them, I couldn’t always understand why. Eye contact, for example. Ummm…I hate it, too. Why should they have to do that? Playing an organized game on the playground versus wandering on their own. Geez, I much preferred my own imagination to some group game. Why is it hurting anything? Teachers and therapists in those days were really well-intentioned people, for the most part, but, somehow, had me doubting my mothering skills because I didn’t fret about what they thought I should. It’s taken years and a lot of insights into my own autism to recognize how important letting them be themselves and grow at their pace has been and still is. I fully believe these kids can take the world by storm. My job is to give them the room to do it. 😃

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh wow!! Have I told you yet that you’re amazing?? ❤ ❤ I love how you think, how you approach your children, how you approached their autistic classification, and everything else. You of all people are strong enough – please never doubt that for a second! ❤ ❤

      "Why is it hurting anything?" – Amen, sister! Danged if I know.

      Look at how far you've come, the insight that you've accumulated, the wisdom you have. I'm enthralled, girl. 🙂 🙂 ❤ Xxxx

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Awww. That means so much to me! 😘😘😘 And, wow, the timing! Really needed that boost just now. Seriously. Thank you!!!💓💓💓

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Laina – this post is absolutely brilliant. It is what every parent of a child with Autism/Asperger’s needs to read. Do you mind if I include a link to it on my site?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so very much! 😊😊. Officially it’s part-time, but I usually end up working more than full-time 😁😁. Sometimes I get overwhelmed though, yeah – I have chosen a specialty that allows me to pace myself. Not very many quick snap decisions 👍🏼👍🏼. I have Non-24 which often results in a lot of insomnia lol – so I have a lot of time built in 😊💙💜

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had never heard of non-24. My brothers both have problems with insomnia – any advice. One of them spent a few nights in a sleep clinic but they didn’t find anything

        Liked by 1 person

            1. You’re very welcome! I thought I had regular insomnia. Although when I was 15-16 I figured out that my body ran on a longer day. Wasn’t until a couple months ago (about 25 years later(!)) that I learned about chronorhythm disorders. It was her blog that taught me 😁👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👍🏼💙💜

              Liked by 1 person

            2. (Forgot to add that a lot of insomnia is misdiagnosed as garden-variety insomnia when actually it’s a chronorhythm disorder like Non-24, although that’s not the only chronorhythm issue; it’s part of a small family 😊)

              Liked by 1 person

      1. Your work deserves all the recognition it gets & then some more.
        It is always a pleasure to share the best of WordPress!
        Your blog is helping so many people everywhere, & you do it
        because it is your calling. We learn so much & hope others
        will too, compassion & understanding make this a better place!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Aww thank you!! 😘😘. “We learn so much & hope others
          will too, compassion & understanding make this a better place!”

          That rocks!! I’m beaming, joyfully 💓💓💓🌠🌟🌠🌷✨🌷


  4. We weren’t devastated when we got Ben’s diagnosis, we were relieved. We knew at 18months things weren’t *normal*. We have avoided ABA because I started following autistic adults on social media and listening to them. I always thought it’d be better to get information from someone who actually has an autistic brain than an *expert*. I’ve gotten some great insight and made some great friends! Ben is very different from a lot of the adults I follow. He has a lot of support needs and may never live a completely independent life. Or he may grow up and cure cancer. Either way, he’s an awesome kid who is a blessing and a joy! A challenge to be sure but so we’re my NT daughters in their own way. 😮😆😘

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh thank you thank you, Dearest Dude! 😁😁😁😘😘. I can imagine that for people like y’all, the diagnosis *would* be a relief! That’s because you’re ahead of the curve and very very open-minded 😘❤️💜💙💚. I love what you said about The King! He’s a really really lucky guy! Actually, y’all are lucky to have each other, but then you knew that 😁😘🌺🌷🌺. I think you handled it and perceive it perfectly! And who knows – The King might invent the Ram Scoop or revive Tesla’s free energy. And even if he doesn’t, he’s an amazing and hilarious, sweet kid and the world is a much better place having had y’all in it 🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼💚💙💜💖🌟💖💟🌷🌺🌷💟


  5. Hope you don’t mind, I shared this on my FB page. I love your blog very much, I like how you want to share your experience to help others, I thought this was a great post 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

              1. I use all the platforms, but because of some security concerns I use a linux machine with WP. But Apple Mac / iPhone works OK too. And, Mac does have emoji. I think they are hidden somewhere in the Edit menu.

                Liked by 1 person

              1. Stick with Ubuntu variants; they are much easier to install and maintain. Slowly, most apps are getting equivalents in open source except truly exotic tools (The Mac OSX Omnigroup tools come to mind as an exception: OmniOutliner, OmniFocus, etc.) You can buy an older Windows machine for very cheap, maybe at a Goodwill, and convert it to a good working Linux machine over a weekend. (If you have not done this before, you might need some help.) Add in a VPN and some other security software and it becomes a great machine for blogging.

                Liked by 1 person

                    1. Then it is totally worth buying a several years old quad core for maybe $100 and converting it. As an example, Ebay currently has a listing for this machine: HP EliteBook 8540w 15.6″ WIN 10 6GB 320GB Intel Core i7-M620 2.7GHz Quad Core ($188) Full disclaimer: I just ran this search and know nothing about this PARTICULAR machine. You might buy something similar locally if your local Goodwill has machines like that. Some of them do.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. That’s an excellent suggestion; we have a lot of Goodwill stores in this area; one is right down the street from me (!). I’ll also check out eBay – that’s a sound idea and although I don’t know anything about that machine either, it sounds good 👍🏼👍🏼

                      Liked by 1 person

                    3. I am going to ATTEMPT to sleep in a few minutes. Love our chat(s). Will pick up the thread sometime tomorrow or this weekend with your “unread” comments. Have a great evening!

                      Liked by 1 person

                    4. Yep, that’s the one! The world is such a beautiful place with her in it, and the fact that you know and like her too is awesome! It’s like having this really cool neurodivergent siblinghood 😉😉👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼💚💙💜


  6. I especially like how you encourage parents to look a bit deeper as they may appear “lazy” but really are likely overwhelmed and/or depressed… This post will help many parents xx


  7. Laina, I’ll be including a link to this post, as well. I’m still trying to write my next entry on my blog. I’m going through a nasty divorce from a husband who I’m sure has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD.) As part of the custody, the judge ordered psychological evaluations for the three of us. I just got the results of my own one and that of my daughter’s. I don’t know if I’ll wver get to see his results. Either way, while I had suspected that something was going on with my just-turned 3-yr old daughter, and deep in my heart of hearts I had a feeling it was some sort of Autism, it is a whole experience when now you see it officially, on paper. Somehow, I felt she was going to be ok. I was going to be okay. The doctor was really impressed with me. He said that it is amazing how I can get her out of her aloofness and interact in a way that Autistic children usually don’t or can’t. I guess that and the fact that I can tell my daughter is indeed very bright might have been the main reasons for me to doubt that she could ever have anything going on. I mean, she learnt her ABCc, back and forth, on her own, at the age of 2 and a half. Nobody taught them to her. Same with numbers. She learnt them 0-10 and 10-0 on her own. I speak Spanish as first language. Her father is American. She clearly understands both, Spanish more because she stays with my mom while I’m at work. Therefore, she’s exposed to Spanish a lottle more than English. I attributed her speech delay to this fact, exposure to two languages. And there are multiple cases of speech delays in my family due to the exposure to multiple languages whole growing up.

    I’m very stubborn. I do not want anyone to out my daughter in a box and encapsulate her in an already-sabotagged future. They have already told me to drop the Spanish. Why? She clearly understands it now. Why should I do that? How is she going to communicate with my extended family members who don’t speak English at all? She has an incredible memory. That has to count for something.

    My main problem is not going to be her future, but my husband’s controlling tendencies. He’s already enrolling her to schools that I’m sure are not going to help her thrive. I have this strong feeling that she will be an amazing human being who will do extraordinary things, at her own time. She’s amazing. She can be everything and anything she can be. I know it will require more understanding and patience on my end. But that’s what a parent should do anyway, Autism or not.

    Yes, it’s hard. I’m crying while I type this. But not because of what happened to my daughter. I’m upset at the level of misunderstanding, stereotyping, and ignorance out there. Look at you! You’re a doctor! I just saw on TV a young man in my state who has Autism and gave the speech at his class graduation ceremony. He’s been acceted to 4 universities, including University of Michigan. When I told the psychologist that I felt great things awaited my daughter, he stopped me right there and said: “Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.” Why? I’m not stupid and I’m not irrational. I just don’t want someone to tell me or my daughter what she can or cannot do until we have tried it. Is that that difficult to understand?

    Thank you so much for this. I’ll definitely come amd visit your blog more frequently. I want to hear the perspective of someone who lived it. Not of someone who is outside of it, credentials or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh wow 💙💙. Dear one, your comment made me tear up 💞. I think for multiple reasons.

      First, the significance of what you’re going through, and the pain you must feel.

      Second, the strength you have, to face your situation and put one foot in front of the other. I can only imagine how excruciatingly difficult this must be. My maternal grandmother is a narcissist, so although every situation is different and unique, I can understand on a certain level 😊. (My male partner has displayed some narcissistic tendencies as well, although probably not full-blown.). So yes, please know that I Hear You. *You* matter! 💞💞.

      Third, how touched I feel by your words 💓💓. I admire your strength and your openness! Thank *you* so much; I really appreciate your kind words 💟🌈.

      Beautiful things await both you and your daughter! Particularly because she has an amazing mom; I do too, and it has made a world of difference. Keep going, dear new friend! I’ll walk beside you, for whatever it may be worth 💖🌟💖.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I wish autism was a thing back in the sixties. My boyfriend has had alot of struggles. He is now 54. But he has managed. Thank you for the article. Very enlightening.

    Liked by 1 person

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