Parents may have dreams for their children that begin before they are born. However, receiving a new diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) for a child can be a life-changing experience for parents. Many parents express confusion, anger, guilt, disbelief and a range of other emotions upon receiving an ASD diagnosis. These feelings are part of a normal grieving process and are often experienced differently by each parent. 

Expectations often change when parents learn their child has a developmental disorder, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is important to acknowledge that ASD is not the parents’ fault.  The etiology of ASD is still unknown.  Important first steps for parents are to educate themselves, obtain support, make treatment decisions, and advocate for their child. 
The more parents learn, the more empowered they become to make wise decisions and advocate for their child and family. There are many books, articles, DVDs, workshops, websites, and conferences about ASD.  As parents take on this task, they need to remember that they cannot possibly learn everything at once.  Parents should take their time, and talk with their child’s doctor, local autism support center or therapists about reliable sources of information and safe treatments.

Parents often feel a sense of urgency to get every intervention in place simultaneously.  While putting treatment into place, it is important for parents to find sources of support as they navigate through this journey -- whether it is from other parents of children with ASD, friends, family, religious institutions, therapists, or community agencies. In Massachusetts, the Autism Consortium is a resource for education and support. There are several different autism support centers which offer a myriad of services to families including family support groups, sibling support groups, parent trainings, community events, information and referrals, community outreach and more. Support groups for parents of children with ASD can be very helpful, especially during the "newly diagnosed" period.

Treatment decisions
Making treatment decisions is an ongoing process throughout the child’s development. As the child develops and as new evidence-based interventions become available,   options for treatment may change.  Identifying and working with a trusted team of providers will help evaluate the child’s needs and guide parents to the most appropriate treatment options.

Parents know their child better than anyone else.  After getting the information needed to develop a treatment plan, parents must learn to advocate and not be afraid to ask for the services their child needs. This also is an ongoing process.

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