Because our society has not yet learned to accept disabilities gracefully, parents are distraught when they are told that their child has one. We have tried and tried to help parents deal with the stress of discovering their child has autism and then the stress of coping with the demands the disability places on their time and money, but even with support, parents inevitably go through some tough times.
Here are some common feelings parents have after first learning that their child has autism, and some suggestions for coping with them.
Parents know when their child has a disability. In fact, most of my parents know it before their pediatricians. But pediatricians are trained to calm worried new parents. And the truth is that we parents want to hear that our children are fine. So if the pediatrician tells a parent of a child with autism something like, "Don't worry, he's not talking because he's got an older sister who talks for him," or a well-meaning relative says, "His dad didn't talk until he was five," the parent may seize on those excuses and cling to the hope that nothing is wrong.
One mother even told me that she was pretty sure something was wrong with her child but never aired those concerns to the pediatrician and always just told him that things were fine. She was relieved after each well-baby visit that the doctor didn't "find" anything wrong. Of course, the doctor only saw the child for fifteen or twenty minutes a few times a year, and without the mother's prompting, he didn't even think to look for signs of a disability. She lost a lot of time not wanting to admit what she was seeing with her own eyes.