My Child Just Received an Autism Diagnosis…Now What?

Finding out that your child has autism can be overwhelming, and you might not know what to do or where to turn first. My best guidance gleaned from working with many families, is as follows:

Step 1: Give yourself a minute to breathe. Parent reactions to an autism diagnosis can vary greatly, but it is common to feel intense and conflicting emotions. Some comments I have heard from parents over the years included,

“I felt a rush of relief. I had known something was wrong, and now I have a name for it and can better help my child.”

“This is so unfair. I’m so angry. Why is this happening to my child?”

“What does this mean for the future? Will he ever speak? Graduate high school? Fall in love?”

“At first, I felt such sadness in response to the diagnosis but then I realized that my child was the same person before and after the autism label, she hadn’t changed at all. She was right in front of me.”

You may experience feelings such as anger, sadness, guilt, relief, or confusion, and you might frequently flip between emotional reactions. Give yourself some time to understand what the diagnosis means to you and allow yourself space for introspection. Let go of the pressure to do things differently immediately, because you will be better able to make decisions for your child and family by giving yourself this moment.

Step 2: Find your people. Other parents with autism can offer a wealth of knowledge and the unique support of understanding first-hand what you are going through. Locally, I know of the following groups:

Exeter Parent Support Group

For more information contact Gabrielle Grossman (603)418-4685 or Leah Kennedy (978)420-8304.

Rochester Parent Support Group.

For more information contact Betsy Carroll at (603)516-9300.

Oyster River ASD Friends

Meets the second Tuesday of the month at Durham Public library. Contact jsmithnh@icloud.com.

Asperger/Autism Network of New England

For more information call AANE at 617-393-3824

Step 3: Create an action plan. When determining services for your child I recommend looking to experts (e.g., developmental-behavioral pediatricians, psychologists, speech-language pathologists) and searching reputable national sources (e.g., Autism Society, Autism Research Institute, or the National Standards Project) to best understand which interventions are most effective for children with autism. Core interventions typically include communication training, social skills intervention, and applied behavior analysis/positive behavior supports. It is also important to remember that you are the expert on your own child, and it will be crucial to integrate what you learn from outside sources, with what you see as your child and family’s needs.  Then it is time to call your school district, insurance company, and local area agencies to find a provider of these services.


Making Sense of Autism Treatments – Weighing The Evidence


~Lauren Cook, Ph.D.