Navigating New: A Parent’s Journey Through an Autism Diagnosis
graphic showing arrows pointing in all different directions

I remember the uncertainty I felt leading up to the moment of my son’s diagnosis. Why isn’t he talking? Am I at fault? How come he doesn’t respond to his name the way other children do? What do we do? Oh, how the game of comparison was heavy and hard.

My husband and I were fortunate to have a friend who had a special needs kiddo of her own and was able to give us somewhat of an idea on how to advocate for our son. I remember feeling so lost and overwhelmed as I looked for help, answers, and guidance. When did the internet become a giant black hole?

We sat on a waitlist for months just for our screening. As a parent, I remember the feeling of panic as so much time passed. The guilt of not getting on a waiting list sooner was ever present. I remember scrolling through Pinterest looking for any ideas or suggestions that could help my kiddo during the wait. And then the day came. We got our answer. Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The initial days were the hardest. I oscillated between disbelief, grief, and a fierce determination to do everything in my power to help him. Yet, every step seemed daunting. The world of autism services and support was vast and confusing. Each phone call, each appointment, it felt like climbing a never-ending mountain. Thinking you’ve reached the top, only to find another peak waiting beyond.

Finding a Path Forward After the Diagnosis

Receiving my son’s autism diagnosis felt like a storm crashing down on me, yet at the same time, I felt a strong sense of peace knowing we had a starting point. The resources, the pamphlets, the research, all came flooding in. This new information didn’t stop my worrisome thoughts from crawling in. How would his future look now? What challenges lie ahead? Would he be happy? The questions were relentless, and I felt utterly unprepared for the journey ahead.

Finding the right services felt like searching for a needle in a haystack. I longed for guidance, for someone to say, “It’s going to be okay! Here’s exactly what to do next!” My husband and I craved normalcy. We craved being able to take our kiddo to preschool and have him come back with a glowing report. We craved playdates built around our son making friends. We craved outings in which we could go with the flow and see where the day would take us. We craved a community that simply understood us.

One day I found a local support group for parents of children with autism and other special needs. Sharing my fears and frustrations with others who understood felt incredibly powerful. I began finding hope from others who had walked this path before me.

As we continue navigate this journey, we cherish those we come across who don’t just see a diagnosis, those who see my son for the unique, wonderful person he is. They are the ultimate difference makers! Their warmth and dedication reignite my hope every time. It is because of them that my son not only has good days but days where he THRIVES. As parents, we get to see a future filled with possibilities rather than limitations, and I’ll be forever thankful!

The journey is ongoing, with its fair share of challenges and triumphs. There are still days when the weight of it all feels too much, but they are balanced out by moments of joy and progress. My son’s laughter, his achievements, no matter how small, are constant reminders of why we keep pushing forward.

If you are a parent navigating an autism diagnosis, know that it’s okay to feel lost and overwhelmed. It’s okay to grieve and to question your own strength. However, please know that there is hope. The support you seek might not come easily or immediately, but it is out there.

It Takes a Village

Here at The Place for Children with Autism, support comes in many forms. Our outreach specialists listen and guide families, helping them figure out what steps to take next. Our operation supervisors create safe spaces within our centers that allow families to find a sense of peace, knowing their children are being cared for. Our Board-Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) establish individualized plans that provide our kiddos the opportunities to grow and thrive at their own pace. They provide care takers with the tools they need based on personal goals they wish to achieve at home. Our Registered Behavior Technicians form incredible relationships with our kiddos as they dedicate their days to working with them one-on-one, promoting natural teaching environments and allowing them to be their truest selves.

Here at The Place for Children with Autism, our kiddos are welcomed, encouraged, and celebrated, every step of the way.

When the journey is challenging, remember that it is also filled with moments of profound love and resilience. Our children teach us the true meaning of strength and remind us every day that, despite the hardships, there is always hope.

Our community is always open to newcomers, as we know, we’re not meant to navigate this parenthood journey alone!

Megan Leinonen
Neurodivergent Parent
Director of Marketing & Outreach
The Place for Children with Autism

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July 3, 2024

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