6 Things We Did Post-Autism Diagnosis
Progress is possible.
My son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Global Developmental Delay (GDD) at the age of two. He is now three and within the past year, displayed some progress. I remember during the early days after his autism diagnosis, progress seemed like something that would never come. I would not say progress is quick. In fact, speaking for myself and many other parents with children with autism, progress is often slow and with bouts of regression as well. But, there would still be progress and if we stopped and looked at our son now, he’s definitely come a long way (although he does have a long way more to go) from that 2 year old we knew back then. Having said that, I often get asked on what we did to help our son in the past year. I decided to pen down my thoughts for the benefits of struggling parents who just received a diagnosis. Also, if you know of any parents that had just received a diagnosis for their child, be sure to check my articles: Things NOT To Say or Things You CAN Say to families with autism.
Here are the 6 things we did which helped support our son’s progress.
There are many types of therapies out there but the number one therapy I recommend is love therapy. It isn’t really a therapy. Every parent loves their child. But you need to love unconditionally. Forget all expectations of your child. Therapists, doctors, family etc will have expectations of your child. But not you. Embrace their autism. See the beauty in it. Tell yourself it is going to be okay and love your child’s quirks. Trust me, they can feel the difference when you love them unconditionally and in turn they will open up to you (and eventually learn) more!
Next is to understand your child. To do this, you will need to spend all day with your child for a few months to fully understand them. You might even need to give up your full time job temporarily or take a hiatus. But trust me, it is worth it. Sounds like a crazy advice right? It was the advice given to me (by a doctor of all people!) but it took me many months to take that step to be a stay a home mom. Now that I’ve been there, I’ve truly understood my son so much more. With this greater understanding of him, I have figured out how to manage his behavior and teach him in the ways he learn best.
Learn life skills.
3. Occupational Therapy
Most children with autism have sensory issues. These issues prevent them from trying new things, learning, staying focused and so on. OT will help with minimizing sensory issues. It also helps with teaching life skills and motor skills which is extremely important since most kids on the spectrum have some form of developmental delay. However, do choose a good therapist. If you have love and understanding for your child, you will be able to tell if your child likes the therapist or is traumatized by the session on the first session itself. Do sit in the first few sessions. It is your right as a parent to be there!
4. Gluten and Casein Free diet
New research in biomedical science shows that the gut controls the brain. You are what you eat. Most children with autism are born with holes in the gut which makes it hard to process proteins in gluten and casein. It causes the brain to fog up and hallucinate and increase hyperactivity. Our neurologist suggested a 6-month GFCF diet and if it shows improvement, to continue for another 2 years or as long as the child needs to fully heal their gut. We’ve done this for 9 months now and we now see his “brain” fog lifted. A good gut also helps lessen picky eating. But I am not going to lie, there is an array of research out there trying to debunk this theory. I’ve also spoken to doctors and a psychologist who said that changing his diet would not work. In the end, I trusted my gut (no pun intended) and his neurologist because she also happened to have a son with autism and it greatly helped him. With little faith, we started him on this diet and we saw some positive changes. We also noticed during the first couple of months when he was inconsistently on GFCF diet, he would start repetitively shaking his head after a meal with gluten/dairy. Could he be high? Hallucinating? We won’t ever know. But I do know a lot of other children with autism/ADHD have seen improvement in this diet. No harm trying for 6 months and if it doesn’t work, you can consider to scrap it 🙂
Heal the gut, helps the mind.
5. Son-Rise Program
We are doing a lifestyle based Son-Rise Program (SRP) where we incorporate SRP principles and techniques throughout our day. SRP requires us to have a dedicated playroom for the “therapy” to happen. Having a dedicated playroom will help with the effectiveness of the program. However, we don’t do many playroom hours as his playroom is shared due to lack of available rooms in our house and we only get a limited amount of time in his playroom. Where we can we do 30 minutes. But we do implement all the techniques throughout the day in whichever room he is in as much as possible. It is important for me to mention that this is an alternative non-mainstream treatment and there isn’t a lot of research on it. However, many parents including myself swear by its effectiveness. It is also the only program that helps parents themselves deal with their own struggles of raising an autistic child (which is so so important to help your child progress) so it’s a win-win program for parents and child. You can start by reading the book Autism Breakthrough by Raun Kaufman. That’s how we started and that’s how we broke through 🙂
6. Speech Therapy
I put speech therapy as last simply because we just started it few months ago and haven’t been doing it long enough to see major improvements as his sessions were inconsistent due to him missing sessions after several bouts of illness.. And then Covid-19 happened so we are now in the midst of trying out online speech therapy sessions with his therapist. There are definitely some minor improvements here and there, especially in areas of imitating us (which is a pre-language skill), despite sessions being quite challenging for my son who is pre-verbal. Having said that, many have seen benefits from it and if your child has speech delay, it is definitely worth trying out ST because the therapist would know specific techniques to get your child to make speech sounds. They would also be able to check if your child has apraxia, and teach non-verbal communications/AAC if it ever comes down to that.
It may feel like you don’t do enough for your child.
Speaking from experience, it can be truly challenging keeping emotions in check (not only your own, but those close to you), while keeping a clear head to learn what autism and neuro-diversity is, all while trying to figure out what is best for your child. At times, it may feel like you don’t do enough of everything to help your child and it is perfectly normal to feel that way. If you are constantly feeling demotivated about your child’s progress, do reach out to others in the same boat for support and experience sharing. You are not alone in this journey. Last but not least, always and always BELIEVE in your child even if doctors, therapists, teachers and family members do not believe in them. Seek out others who also believe in them especially their team of teachers and therapists. It is important to have faith and trust that your child will progress however slow or fast. There is no timeline.