Navigating Your Child's Disability DiagnosisHaving a child diagnosed with a disability can be overwhelming. The range of emotions that accompany a diagnosis can range from deep depression to intense anger, with variations of other feelings in between. This blog post will conclude the discussion of the various stages of a disability. While the stages may vary for each individual, it is important that parents, caregivers and anyone vested in the life of an individual with autism recognize their own emotional journey and receive the appropriate levels of support.
Accepting the diagnosis may actually begin during the transition phase, where the parents or parent begins to take action in an effort to help their child. Acceptance, as chronicled in other stages of emotion (i.e. grief, divorce) generally indicates that the parents have found a middle ground in which they are able to come to terms with the diagnosis. Acceptance may also mark the point in which the parents or parent has redefined normalcy in their every day lives so that they are able to move forward. Parents may alter their schedules or routines to accommodate their child's disability. For example, one parent may decide to work part-time or quit working altogether so that he can attend to the needs of the child. Once their lives are restructured, the family as a unit can attempt to move forward for the greater good.
It is important to keep in mind that acceptance does not mean that the parents or the family is now going to live happily ever after because everyone is content. In fact, evidence of the other phases may crop up from time to time. It is perfectly logical to think that there might be periods of depression or anger even when acceptance has settled in. Something may even trigger a spark that makes the parent think that the disability may not be permanent, as in the initial phase. For these reasons, emphasis continues to be placed on a strong support system and a cohesive family unit in which everyone understands his or her role in the scheme of things. Non-disabled children need to be aware that while much of the focus is being placed on their disabled sibling, their role in the family remains immensely important. The same is true for parents who become so inundated with the daily living requirements that they lose focus of their commitment to one another.
Coping with a disability diagnosis is an individualized experience. Although there have been many who have experienced the range of emotions that accompany the parenting of a child with a disability, no one really knows exactly how you feel. Nevertheless, the amount of support that those around you can offer is immeasurable as long as you remain open to it. The most important thing for you, as a parent, to do is to allow yourself time to process your feelings and don't feel guilty about how you are feeling, as long as your ability to care for your child is not impacted. You should also know when to seek professional help if your emotions reach the point of severity or you are not able to properly care for your child. In the long run, it is what is in the best interest of the child that is key