Adjusting to a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

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Information on how counselling can help when a child has autism spectrum disorder. Includes options available for counselling.

Key points

  • Each family member will cope with a diagnosis of ASD differently.
  • It takes a long time to get an ASD diagnosis — it is normal to feel stressed and overwhelmed.
  • Talking to other parents, joining a support group, or speaking with a counsellor who has experience with ASD can be helpful when trying to find services for your child.

Receiving an official diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be overwhelming. This page explains common reactions to a diagnosis and how to access support for yourself.

Each family member may react differently to a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Initial feelings of disbelief, worry, sadness, and loss are not uncommon. Sometimes a feeling of relief comes from finally understanding the reason for your child’s difficulties. Receiving any diagnosis is overwhelming. A lot of parents describe the journey toward receiving a diagnosis of ASD as lengthy, tiring, and often confusing. Even though many parents said they knew all along that their child fit somewhere on the autism spectrum, the official diagnosis still marked an unforgettable moment in their life.

Lengthy assessments, tests, and other medical appointments may lead to increased stress in the family. Fear of the unknown, uncertainty about the future, and a general sense of emotional overload may be common following a diagnosis. Each family member, depending on their beliefs, experiences, and understanding about ASD, will cope differently. Time is needed to fully grasp what the diagnosis of ASD means for your child and family.

Parents often feel pressured to find the appropriate treatments for their child as quickly as possible. The importance of early intervention is stressed by health care professionals. There is a lot to understand about ASD and even more to understand about different treatment options and how to obtain the best support for your child.

Talking to other parents, joining a support group, or speaking with a counsellor who has experience with ASD can be helpful when trying to find services. It can also help to talk to a counsellor if you are finding that your feelings are making it difficult to get on with day-to-day life. Having a child with ASD often means that every hour is filled with something to be done, people to talk to, and services to put into place. It can feel as though you are moving through life on automatic pilot. Taking the time to talk to others can give you the time you need to make sense of your feelings.

There is more than one option to explore when looking for a counsellor. Support may be available free of charge from a psychiatrist, a hospital-based clinic, or a mental health agency. A sliding scale, where the fee is based on your income, is another way that some counselling agencies offer service. Your insurance company may also pay a certain amount of money toward private counselling. Insurance may also cover a limited number of counselling sessions through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Wherever you choose to find support, make sure that you feel comfortable with the counsellor and are able to share your ideas about how to start feeling better.

Last updated: March 9th 2009