Getting Past Blame and Worry to Help Your Autistic Child

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From the moment my son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified), I started with the "what ifs". For me, the questions were all about treatments. What if I was missing the ONE treatment that would make the difference? What if I were doing things wrong? I'm not alone. Parents feel tremendous pressure to "fix" their childrens problems – and often, the pressure can be overwhelming. But the truth is, worry and blame are almost never productive. So how can you avoid it? Here are some ideas!

What If My Child's Autism Comes from My Side of the Family?:

Since autism is a highly heritable disorder, it's likely that SOMEone's family has a history of autism. That same side of the family may be responsible for your child's hair color, artistic talents or math skills. There's nothing anyone can do to change their genetics, so there's really no blame to place. And the up side of having autism in the family is – other family members may have extra empathy for you and your child!

What If Something I Did Caused My Child's Autism?:

The media is filled with stories suggesting that parental actions may be responsible for children's autism. Was it the tuna mom ate? The ultrasounds the doctor ordered? The childhood vaccines? To date, no one has come up with a definitive answer. And since eating tuna, getting ultrasounds and providing your child with preventive health care are all responsible actions, you have done absolutely nothing wrong!

What If I'm Using the Wrong Therapies?:

There are many, many therapies and treatments available for kids with autism. There are medical, dietary, behavioral, developmental, physical and even aural therapies. Which one is the right one for your child? There's no way to be absolutely certain. The simplest way to answer the question is by watching your child. Is he progressing? Does she seem to be building skills? If the answer is yes – you're probably choosing well.

What If I Missed the One Therapy That Could Have Cured My Child?:

It is theoretically possible that SOMEthing out there could make all the difference for any given child. But think about it this way. If you tried every available therapy on your child, your child would probably collapse from sheer exhaustion. And so would you. As you explore options, you'll find approaches that work for your family. And until there's an "ultimate" answer, you can't do better than that!

What If My Child's Educational Setting Is All Wrong?:

Some schools offer inclusion. Others are into specialized classes. Some do a terrific job, and others are rotten. To some degree, you have control over your child's educational setting. If there's a real problem, you can advocate. You can even take legal action. But if your child is progressing and happy, he's probably just fine.

What If I'm Short-Changing My Spouse Or Other Children?:

For some people, having a child with autism is all-encompassing. It can draw you away from friends and family, and become a world unto itself. If you think this may be an issue, communicate your concerns. If you can make positive changes, go for it! But if everyone else seems content with family life, you may not need to change at all.

What If We Run Out of Money?:

The million and one autism treatments, schools and therapists available can easily drain a family's finances dry. That's why it's make sense to find the programs that work – and then stop. While it's critically important to treat your child's autism, it's equally important to stay financially solvent, pay off your mortgage, and have something left for retirement!

What If My Child Never...(Fill In the Blank):

Marriage...job...personal independence... they're all part of a parent's dream for their child. But whether your child is autistic or absolutely typical, there are no guarantees. Your child will undoubtedly grow and change in many ways over the years, and you'll provide all the love and support you can. If trouble arises, you'll face it. But until then – why spend too much time worrying?

What If I Can't Handle the Stress of Being a Special Needs Parent?:

So much of the stress you're likely to feel comes from the inside out, and not the other way around. Perhaps you're trying to keep up with other parents, respond to extended family, or just meet your own too-high expectations.

Consider the possibility that enough is enough. You've done your homework. You've found good treatments and solid educational settings. You've spent as much money as you can afford, and you've gotten the right diagnoses. Your child with autism is on the right track.

But what if there's more to be done, better programs to find, possibilities left unexplored?

The truth is, you'll never exhaust all the possibilities. So look inside yourself. When you think about more therapies – or perhaps consider changing schools or even homeschooling – do you feel energized or overwhelmed? Excited or depressed?

If the idea of one more straw on your load feels overwhelming, it probably is. And your child is unlikely to benefit from a parent who is overwhelmed, exhausted, and emotionally drained.

So ... what if you put your feet up? What if you had a glass of wine, a bubble bath or an evening out? What if... you got to be just you for a few hours? What if you had... fun?!

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