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So, your child was just diagnosed with autism. Now what?

Getting an autism diagnosis can seem scary. But it doesn’t have to be! About 1 in 100 children has autism, according to the World Health Organization. It’s common! And knowing your child’s diagnosis is a beautiful thing.

1. Relax.

Sure, things might not be the way you expected. But now you know what’s going on in their mind and can make accommodations! A diagnosis a good thing! So many successful people are autistic. You’ll all be just fine.

2. Remember they’re the same person.

Growing up undiagnosed wouldn’t have changed things — it’d just make their needs harder to understand, which would've caused lots more stressed and would've made your child grow up feeling frustrated, alienated, or lonely. Knowing is way better!

3. Talk about it.

Don’t hide their diagnosis from them! They know they’re different. You can help them understand WHY they’re different and feel good about it, instead.

4. Do your research.

Look up all the different traits different autistic people can have, and how to best understand them. Learn about the spectrum and about different needs people can have. And research different therapies. (More on that in a moment.)

5. Learn from autistic adults.

No one understands autism better than an autistic person. Every autistic adult was once an autistic kid. Lots of information about autism out there is from non-autistic voices, and much of it is rooted in ableism. Some advice might not be the best for your child.

6. Listen to their needs.

If they communicate that something is bothering them, it’s because something is. They might feel things differently or more strongly than you. There’s a reason behind every meltdown, so believe them. Then, find what you can do to help.

7. Work on different methods of communication.

Your child is a whole person, and their brain may not be able to communicate their wants and needs as well as you might like. But they CAN communicate — even if it’s in a nontraditional way.

8. Respect their passions.

If your child has an interest, don’t take it away. It brings them comfort and happiness. Oh, and you don't need to call it a "special interest" — it can feel infantilizing for some people.

9. Accept them the way they are.

Don’t discount their autistic traits or behaviors, even as they get older. People don’t grow out of autism. Your child will always be autistic — and that’s totally okay! You'll both be so much happier if you accept who they are.

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