Friday, April 5, 2013

What I wish I knew when my daughter was first diagnosed with autism

Guest post by Carolyn Chambers

Greetings! My name is Carolyn, and I’m the mother of two daughters, Kirsten (10 years old) and Kellie (9 years old). Kellie was diagnosed with autism in January of 2008 at the age of 4. My first marriage ended shortly after my daughter got her diagnosis. I ventured into single mom-hood while navigating through the often overwhelming unknowns of what to do when you have a child with autism. There was no “Autism for Dummies” book back then, though after doing a quick Google search, I see there’s one available now. I ultimately had to figure out how to best help my daughter mostly on my own and began researching, reading, networking, and engaging with other parents as well as picking the brains of the many professionals who I had the honor to work with thanks to autism.

The best parent connection that I made was with a former friend from high school who later became my wonderful and supportive husband! One of our mutual friends advocated that we “reconnect” through Facebook since we both have daughters on the autism spectrum.
Which brings me to one of the top tips I can offer to parents who have recently gone through having a child diagnosed with autism: get connected with other parents, so you can learn from their experiences.

Join a parent support group like TACA (Talk About Curing Autism). Personally, this has been my #1 and what helped my daughter the most. I learned so much from other parents’ advice on best therapy providers, doctors, school districts, behavioral-type of programs, treatments, interventions, problem solving, etc. And, as a bonus, I made some life-long friends through the support groups.

You should also attend autism conferences; that’s where you’re going to discover the newest cutting edge treatments and therapies as well as learn about the latest research in development. It’s your chance to be immersed with experts and professionals (and another opportunity to network with parents!).

But be prepared to be confused with all of the conflicting information and advice that’s out there. Researching and consulting with experienced parents and doctors will prove priceless.
Paying close attention to your child’s diet is another helpful tip I’ve received and wanted to share with you. You are what you eat! Learn about all of the special diets out there that are said to benefit children with autism and ADHD. At the very least, cut out the junk food, processed, and artificial ingredients. This is something all parents and caregivers should do for their kids regardless of an autism diagnosis. Understand how the digestive system is connected to what goes on in the brain. There’s plenty of science-based knowledge out there supporting the importance of nutrition. Be sure to ask other parents about what diets have been most successful for their children with autism.

Be wary of “miracle cures.” The curse of being proactive when it comes to researching possible interventions for your child is being exposed to all the countless “treatments” that make too good to be true promises and drain your wallet. Me being an information junkie, I don’t mind reading about some of these “treatments” with a grain of salt. But before considering any treatment, even the ones that are less “out there,” remember to research them thoroughly and speak with as many parents as possible who have tried that sort of treatment. Any treatment you proceed with should be done under an experienced doctor’s guidance.
I have more tips to share, so, please come back next week to read the second part of my post.

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