A child with an autism spectrum disorder affects the whole family. The parents, siblings, grand parents, but also distant relatives have to cope with the new situation and get used to it.
“Imagine that you dream only about how to get to Italy all your life. You prepare everything, however, when you set off, you find out that in fact you are going to Holland. If you spend the life crying for Italy, you will never discover the qualities of Holland. Once you have been there for a while, you will start to notice the beauty of it. Tulips, wind mills, Rembrandt’s paintings.”
The paraphrase of the idea of the essay Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley, the mother of a disabled child.
Every parent wishes that their child will be healthy and happy. Therefore the diagnosing with an autism spectrum disorder is a terrible shock for a lot of parents. But autism does not necessarily mean unhappiness automatically. Autistic children are different in many things, however, they are full-fledged creatures with a rich internal world. Some can achieve a high level of independence and success in different areas with the right approach.
It is necessary to work with the autistic child continuously, however, the parents have the hardest task in the pre-school and early school age. In that period they must try to bring the child to independence as much as possible and to develop their communication and social abilities intensely.
Correct your expectations. Do not give up, but do not be too ambitious. Do not compare your family with other ones. Your child may have the abilities which you cannot appreciate today. Work on the improvement of their social and communication skills together with them.
The autistic child can mean a big pressure on marriage, since men and women cope with similar life situations differently. If you have a feeling that you are at sea with this, seek for professional help.
It does not matter whether the autistic child is the youngest one, the oldest one or in the middle. Most parents are afraid what effect the disorder of one child will have on their siblings. However, the surveys show that the autistic children’s siblings develop completely properly and according to the study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders the autistic children’s siblings are emotionally and psychologically even more at ease than the siblings of ordinary children. However, on the other hand it confirmed the assumption that also other factors affect good relationships of siblings, e.g. the height of the household income etc.
Grandparents and other relatives
Grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles. The whole family should be informed about what is happening in detail. It is worth explaining it also to the family members who you do not meet regularly. Everybody should know what diagnosis is going on, what it is caused by and how it is manifested. You should try to inform all relatives on the specific behaviour of your child in depth and you should give them the instructions on how they should behave in their presence. Be particular about that everybody understands that it is not pamperdness behind your child’s behaviour, but that it is a diagnosis. If your child likes it, allow them to spend time with the relatives, if it is not – do not force them.
Classmates and friends
Children with autism spectrum disorders usually attend special facilities with special pedagogues and their classmates are different, the same as they are. In contact with other children the result is highly dependent on the extent and type of the disorder, social and communication skills etc. In the case that your child has a disorder, which is not obvious for the first sight, but it may be manifested, it is good to notify others of the fact that your child is different when getting in touch.