Disappointment With The Diagnosis


We recently received a diagnosis of high functioning autism on our 7-year-old son. My husband is not doing so well with this recent news. Is there any way to lessen the blow to his disappointment?


To your husband:

Realize that you are not alone in this and that your feelings (which run the gamut from fear, to guilt, to anger, to depression, etc.) are just the symptoms of a broken heart. So go ahead and look at your grief. Observe your thoughts and feelings.

Accept them and be kind to yourself about having them. It doesn’t help to pretend to be positive when underneath you may be lonely, afraid, or sad. You can grieve. You can complain. You can mourn. This helps you to go on, make the best of the situation, and enjoy life.

It is natural to wonder about what might have been. The longing for the “normal” youngster of your dreams - or a typical life for you and your family - may endure. You have to learn to live with that yearning, and you can do that, but you don’t have to lie to yourself about how hard this can be. It takes time to heal a confused and broken heart, and the difficulties that you must cope with everyday are nearly constant reminders and may trigger your grief over and over.

Try to accept yourself as you are—a kind and loving father doing your best with your youngster who is undoubtedly doing his best under trying conditions. A perfectly lovely youngster with special needs can be very hard to be with because of his behavioral, social, or communication issues. But people often believe that when you love somebody, you love to be with them.

When you don’t feel that and think you should, the guilt can be unbearable, and your heart aches. As you can accept yourself in a kind and compassionate way, your heart heals, and then the grief lightens. The sun comes out, and change is more likely.

Accepting our pain - and ourselves - leads to accepting and enjoying our autistic kids – and our family. This is the gateway to love and happiness. That deep connection that a father feels with a newborn, or a youngster’s first steps, or first words can be felt at any moment when we are truly aware and attuned to our "special needs" youngster.

That deep connection is alive inside you. As you rekindle it, you can actually experience very deep happiness. That’s not to say that your life will be easy. But it can be happy and fulfilling.

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