8 Reasons to Feel Good about an Autism Diagnosis

dad and daughter playing with blocks
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Could an autism spectrum diagnosis ever be good news?  The answer is YES, under the right circumstances. Here's why:

  1. It Offers a Clear Path Forward. Many families are forced to grope their way through an alphabet soup of diagnoses ranging from ADHD to OCD to NVLD to social anxiety before finally learning that all those symptoms really describe just one diagnostic category: autism spectrum disorder. Once the diagnosis was in hand, they could finally direct their attention toward finding the right therapies, programs, and supports to help their child be as successful as possible.
  1. It's a Diagnosis That Comes with a Healthy Helping of Hope. While autism has no "cure," there are many treatments that can make a huge positive difference. In other words: there are positive actions that can help a child with autism build skills and relationships, but in order to know what to do you need that diagnosis.
  2. It Comes Along with Funding and Services. Most insurance companies as well as state and federal agencies (not to mention school districts) provide funding, services, supports and opportunities for people with autism and their families. But in order to qualify, in many cases, you need a diagnosis.
  3. It Can Provide a Sense of Identity. If you're a teen or adult who has wondered for years "what's wrong with me," it can be freeing to discover that -- like many successful teens and adults in the world -- you're autistic! That means you are part of a group of people who have written books, created communities, and developed the means to successfully self-advocate. The diagnosis is your key to becoming part of that group.
  1. It Makes It Easier to Explain Your Child  to Family and Friends. "What's the matter with that child?" "Why can't you discipline him?" "Doesn't he WANT a big hug?" Questions like these, from family and friends, can be devastating -- especially when you don't have an answer to provide. Now that autism is better understood, however, a diagnosis can make it easier for everyone. Instead of shrugging or feeling uncomfortable, parents can describe autism to friends and family and have a good chance of being understood and supported.
  1. It Gives Families a Tool for Understanding and Responding to Behaviors.  People with autism usually speak and behave differently from their typical peers. They may need to move more, speak oddly, have a strong desire for routine. They may flap their hands, pace, or make odd noises. Without a diagnosis, it's very tough to understand or respond to such behaviors. Are they intentional? Should they be "extinguished" through discipline? Once parents and teachers understand that the child in question is autistic, they begin to think, instead, about the possibility that such behaviors are a result of anxiety or physical discomfort -- and respond accordingly.
  2. It Offers Access to Specialized Support Groups, Programs, Events, and Opportunities. Need a support group for parents with autistic kids -- or for the kids themselves -- or for teens or adults on the spectrum? If you live in a metropolitan area, chances are you'll find all three within easy distance. You'll also find autism support classrooms, schools and camps specifically designed for kids on the spectrum, autism-friendly movies, "quiet" hour for families with autistic members who want to visit zoos or aquarium... in short, once you have a diagnosis in hand, you're a member of the "autism club."
  1. It Helps Parents to Adjust Their Expectations. Once you know your child is autistic -- and that his odd behaviors are neither intentional nor naughty -- you can begin to understand your child better. When you know your child, you can adjust your expectations and plan for success. A child with autism may, indeed, throw a tantrum and refuse to go to see the fireworks, but now you know that the reason may have more to do with the fear of loud noise that with a desire to defy you. So instead of meting out punishment, you can buy a pair of noise-blocking earphones and enjoy the evening!

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