Having a diagnosis can sound definitive, but if your child has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, there are actually any number of things that can mean for them. They are still the same person they have always been, after all, and so if they don't do certain “stereotypical” things, or show some of the symptoms that you associate with ASD, there’s no guarantee that they will. There are hundreds of different ways that ASD can present itself, after all, and even children who present ASD in similar ways can have different feelings about those traits, and can do best dealing with them in different ways.
What does an ASD diagnosis mean for my child?
An ASD diagnosis can mean something different to every child with one. As your child grows, you can talk to them about the diversity of people in general, and how some of the ways that they may end up having trouble or needing some extra help in certain areas of growth, learning, or development, can be related to this difference.
An ASD diagnosis can also mean a chance to connect to different groups of people. You can help connect your child with other children with ASD, and with adults with ASD. New technologies, ideas, and types of support are emerging and developing all the time to help children with autism communicate and connect to the world around them, and staying connected to advocacy communities can help to make sure your family hears about these advances as they happen.
What does my child’s ASD diagnosis mean for me?
As a parent, knowing your child has been diagnosed with ASD means that you have a tool you can use to communicate their needs to their doctors, teachers, and the other important people in their life. Parents of young children are their children’s representatives to the adults in their lives. An ASD diagnosis can help you communicate with the people in your child’s life about their needs. A diagnosis can also give you a direction to research as you figure out what your child’s needs are. This doesn’t mean that their diagnosis defines them. Instead, it gives you a way to talk and think about their unique needs in a way that might be easier to understand in a broader context.
As you’re advocating for your child’s needs as they grow, one of the biggest ways a diagnosis can be useful is in helping to figure out if your child is eligible for certain services, either through their school, through the state, or through medical sources.
One thing to keep in mind is that there are two types of ASD assessments: an educational categorization, and a medical diagnosis. The educational categorization assesses a child’s ability to participate and thrive in school, and has an impact on what educational services or accommodations a child may be eligible for at school. This might include special classes to work one-on-one to build skills outside of regular class, working with aides to help make sure children with ASD have the support that can help them best, social skills groups, speech and language therapies, and occupational therapy.
A medical diagnosis, on the other hand, can be helpful for making sure children have access to services, therapies, and interventions outside of school. Both diagnoses can be helpful as your child grows, so making sure to establish both early on can be useful.