Autism: Your child received a diagnosis…don’t despair!

By Rosemarie Maughan

When you finally get the diagnosis your child is autistic don’t despair; being autistic is not a tragedy, but a neurological difference which is to be understood and embraced. It’s going to be ok. The best thing you can do now for your child is to educate yourself on what being autistic means, and how it impacts on their life; and become their rock of support until they no longer need you to be. The best way you can learn to do this is from autistic adults; and we are lucky there are so many willing to help us as parents. Remember, they were once autistic children, so they are the experts. Also, do research any therapy offered to your child, and seek the opinion of autistic adults who have been through it. Be sure the approach of any therapy you agree to is one of acceptance, rather than trying to allegedly make your child pass more as a non-autistic child.

In terms of therapies, I have learned from the autistic community that Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) therapy can be damaging on an autistic child and lead to stress, low self-esteem and mental health issues later in life. It is our role as parents to ensure our autistic children are accepted and embraced, not converted into a non-autistic child, which is not possible. According to autistic activist, Frank L Ludwig, ‘Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is not a ‘cure’ for autism; it is a personality-altering conversion therapy camouflaging the real person at a terrible cost. Problematic and undesired behaviours have causes; ABA intends to change these behaviours without addressing the causes.’ If you’d like to read the entire article, here’s the link. www.franklludwig.com

Surround yourself with supporting parents of autistic children and become each other’s support network.

Surround yourself with supportive parents of autistic children and become each other’s support network. There may be very difficult days where you will need a shoulder to lean on, not because your child is autistic, but perhaps you can’t understand your child and what they need, or because you have been up all night, or because of the way they are treated by society and the constant battle for appropriate services etc., Make sure you reach out to families on the same journey as you, and check out the rights and entitlements you and your child are entitled too.
Don’t be ashamed to talk about the fact your child is autistic. Take pride in the fact, and educate other along the way so we can break down the stigma and work towards a better future for our autistic children and the autistic community of which autistic Travellers are a part. As parents, if we don’t talk about their needs, they will not be met or represented both by either the Traveller movement or the autistic movement.

As Travellers it is vital we speak openly about autism within our community.

As Travellers it is vital we speak openly about autism within our community so that our autistic children and adults feel loved, accepted and be proud. It is our responsibility to create awareness and acceptance within our community and in the wider autistic community until our children feel ready to do for themselves. Don’t hide your child away or exclude them from family gatherings for fear other Travellers won’t understand or accept your child. It’s vital you educate your family about autism, and your child’s needs, and seek their support. This approach not only helps to create awareness and acceptance, but also shows your child they are loved and accepted within their family and their community as an autistic Traveller. All Traveller children need this love and acceptance, why would an autistic Traveller child be any different? In addition, contact Traveller organisations and Asiam, the national autistic organisation for support.

The best we can do as parents of autistic children is to love and accept them for who they are.

Finally, the best we can do as parents of autistic children is to love and accept them for who they are. We must never try changing them; instead we must support them to grow to be themselves just like any other Traveller child.

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