It's a shame this letter is addressed only to grandparents, because it has a lot of useful information for people in general who are learning about autism in a family member or friend. The truths are pretty universally applicable, but the writer urges grandparents to consider that the parents know a few things about their own children and are already under a great deal of stress. They don't need any judgmental comments from you because they already get enough of that from everyone else, thank youuuuuu....
"Your son and daughter-in-law are now so used to defending their child that it comes as second nature. Give them some time. Once they are more certain of your support, they will be less sensitive.In the meantime, think carefully before you speak. Choose expressions that suggest sympathy and genuine curiosity, and avoid those that convey criticism... The most destructive things you can say are those that convey your lack of trust in their ability to parent, your disdain for the diagnosis, and your unwillingness to make accommodations..."
"Otherwise, you may suddenly be faced with the pain of being unwelcome in your grandchild's home."
Well, mercy me. The letter even mentions homeschooling as a source of potential strife! Fancy that! But what would you write to the parents of a newly-diagnosed child? It takes two to get into a fight. Hm. Well, it probably needs a little refining, but here's mine:
Dear Parent of Newly-Diagnosed Child:
Welcome to the wonderful world of autism! You love your child, and that's awesome. Your child is unique and different in a way other children aren't. The more you discover this, and get used to arranging your home in a way that makes him comfortable, the more you will be able to live in harmony. But get ready to face a lot of rejection and pain from others. There are some bright and supportive spots out there, but you've been warned in advance to prepare your heart for trouble. And make it double. To protect the world from devastation. To unite all peoples within our nation. To denounce the evils of truth and love. To extend our reach to the stars above. Jesse. James. Team Rocket, blast off at the speed of light. Surrender now... or prepare to fight!
That's called a verbal stim. Get used to those, too. :)
I want to encourage you to get online and join a blog ring or an IRL support group. Now, while you are still coherent. Not to discourage you so early in your journey, but I'd caution you to NOT go looking for understanding from ANYONE at ANY time if they are not going through the EXACT SAME THING you are.
PLEASE, for your sanity and that of others, refrain from discussing anything with anyone who is not also the parent of an autistic child. To phrase it positively, other people who have "been there" will really understand. I know that these are precisely the people who are overwhelmed with their own problems and can't help you much, but there it is.
I don't mean to paint autism as this awful child-stealing monster like some organizations do. I'm on the neurodiversity bandwagon and all that. It's more that I have little faith in the people around us to be able to listen, understand and offer support. By all means, share the "letter to grandparents" discussed above with family members. Maybe you have a unique family that will understand. You might not, though, and what I've learned is that it probably would be best just not to chat with them at all if the subjects are any of the following:
parenting in general
how many children you are having
the weather and other controversial topics
One thing I've discovered in *my* journey with autism (and we have a lot of that going on around here) is that your child needs you. He needs you in a way your other children never will. You need to be ready to step up and do what you need to do to parent this child. There will be a price to pay in your relationships with people who don't understand. Maybe sometimes you will even find YOURSELF acting very wrongly and unjustly toward your friends and family. You expected them to be supportive, and to "get it." Why are you so furious at them?? YOU don't even "get it." You can't expect them to! Please stop lashing out at them for not doing the impossible. Just stop talking too openly with anyone who doesn't understand. I can't stress that enough. Don't do that "talking frankly about your problems" thing. Bad things happen when you do that.
Remember that next time there is a discussion. Try to forgive others. Try to forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for being angry and hurt by these inevitable situations. Remember, your child needs you. He will need you tomorrow. He will need you the next day. And the next day, when no one else wants to be there for you guys. And the next day. And the next. Keep giving it your all, and may God bless and keep you when you are tired and feel you can't do this one more day. May His face shine upon you and your children when you can't see the sun shine anywhere else.
There ARE people out there who will care for you and who will understand you and your children. It is your task to find them and cultivate those friendships. It is your task to find out how you can help others and be a source of insipiration. Even a friendly email or blog comment can make the difference to another parent. Our children are so quirky and loveable in their own way. I would never trade mine for anything. I know you wouldn't, either. There is always hope for new and better things tomorrow. And things are not so very bad today so long as we have our children and our friends. :)
In Christ Who Holds All Things Together,