wikiHow to Cope with an Autism Diagnosis

Two Methods:General TipsAdditional Tips for Parents and Caregivers

So the tests are over, the doctor or therapist sits down with you, and she gives the news: it's autism. How do you handle the diagnosis? This article gives coping tips for both autistic people and their parents or guardians.

Method 1
General Tips

These tips apply to autistic people and their loved ones.

  1. Image titled Transgender Guy Thinking.png
    Forget everything that you thought you knew about autism. Television, books, documentaries, and other media rarely depict autistic people correctly.[1][2] Even so, autistic people vary widely. Each person is impacted, gifted, or impaired by being autistic in a unique way. If you've met one person on the autism spectrum, you've met just one person on the autism spectrum.
  2. Image titled Cute Girl Reading.png
    Now that you know nothing about autism, research it. Read books and articles written by autistic people. Learn about what makes them different, what misconceptions people have, and what therapies are helpful. Autistic people can paint accurate pictures of what life is like for autistic people.
    • Remember, autistic people are a very diverse group (just like non-autistics). You will read from people with a variety of abilities, needs, and symptoms.
  3. Image titled Autism Acceptance Month Table.png
    Know that many successful people are autistic. Autistic people write novels,[3] run organizations,[4] create art,[5] compose music,[6] become athletes,[7] and make contributions to science and mathematics.[8] You may be able to have a successful career. You can contribute to society. You may be able to live and work on your own, just like your peers. Or you may live in a supported situation, such as a group home, with your parents or other family members—all depending on your abilities, needs, and preferences.
  4. Image titled Autistic Man and Woman Happy Stimming.png
    Make autistic friends. Autistic friends, along with being cool and fun-loving people in general, are crucial to your coping skills. You can find them in person, through autism advocacy groups, or autistic spaces online. Here are a few ways in which autistic friends are helpful.
    • They are like-minded. You can bond with other autistic people in a way that just isn't possible with non-autistics.
    • They can share coping skills and social strategies. Autistic people have firsthand experience with what works and what doesn't.
    • They face challenges together with you. Tackling a neurotypical world feels a lot less overwhelming when you have a fellow autistic person by your side.
    • They demonstrate firsthand that it's possible to be awesome and autistic. With all the negative discourse on autism, it's easy to forget this.
    • They accept you for who you are.
  5. Image titled Autistic Girl Faces Shadows.png
    Recognize the challenges you are facing. People will misunderstand you. Things other people find simple might be terribly difficult for you. Your life won't be like the picture-perfect "inspirational" photos of disabled people doing exceptional things. Sometimes, it's difficult to be autistic. It is okay to feel confused or unhappy about your diagnosis,[9] and to recognize that your disability makes your life harder in some ways.
    • You are not suddenly a new or different person because of a diagnosis; autism is thought to be inborn. An autism diagnosis does not change who you are; you have always been autistic. But a diagnosis will help clarify a part of you that is different from most other people. An accurate diagnosis is meant to help you and others understand how you are different, and how to meet your needs.
    • Individuals and families can have many different reactions to a diagnosis. It can be frightening, because it is something unusual. It can be a relief, as it may explain things that were a mystery before. It can be confusing, as people often have a poor understanding of autism. A mix of emotions is typical, and it will be okay.
  6. Image titled Autism Acceptance Group.png
    Check out the autistic community online. The autistic community is a welcoming place that provides a positive space to discuss autism. Many autistic people congregate under the hashtags #askanautistic and #actuallyautistic (since family members have mostly taken over the autism tag).
    • If you're having a rough day or are feeling down about your autism, go to the autistic community. They write many things that help.
    • Consider getting involved in advocacy groups. Some autistic and other disabled people dedicate their time to fighting stigma and shame. Find a group that is run partially or completely by autistic people.[10]
    • Non-autistics are welcome to ask questions under #askanautistic and read from #actuallyautistic (although it is rude to post in it if you are not actually autistic).
  7. Image titled Cheerful Guys and AAC App.png
    Accept that it's okay to be different. Neurological differences don't make you any less of a person. They don't change your intelligence, your dedication, or your compassion. You can be strong and autistic at the same time.

Method 2
Additional Tips for Parents and Caregivers

  1. Image titled Man Relaxes.png
    Take a deep breath. It's natural to be worried, confused, and uncertain. A diagnosis is big news. Keep in mind that many negative things you have heard about autism are only one part of the picture, and big groups tend to exploit pity for money.[11][12][13] It may be difficult at times, but it's going to be okay. Your child can have a happy life.
    • Autistic children, while different, are still children who have their own gifts and skills.[14] These will become clearer and clearer as they grow up. Your child has a lot to offer.
    • Remember that most of the bad things you have heard about autism are negative stereotypes. These have carried over from past negative perceptions, when autistic people were dismissed and forced into damaging normalization programs. While some of this continues, we have come a long way, and knowledge and understanding have greatly improved the life of autistic people.[15]
  2. Image titled Girl Cries as People Talk.png
    Know that your child can see your reaction. If you act like the diagnosis is the end of the world, your child will see this and blame themselves.[16] Save your most vulnerable moments for when your child is not around, and make it clear to them that you are not disappointed or burdened by them.[17] Don't pass a negative view onto your child.[18][19]
    • Your job, as a parent, is to help them be their best. That means you need to learn how to get past emotional hang-ups, readjust your expectations, educate yourself on autism, and advocate for your child.
  3. Image titled Deaf Dad and Daughter Laugh.png
    Support your child. They are probably feeling lost and confused too, and a little extra support will help them understand that your love for them hasn't changed. How you decide to do so will depend on the child: hugging them, telling them how much you love them, spending plenty of time playing blocks on the floor, etc.
  4. Image titled Autism Support Group.png
    Seek and accept help. Parenting is an exhausting job already, and it can be especially difficult when you are trying to find resources for a disabled child. You don't need to do this alone. Find appropriate resources as early as possible, to help your child learn how to communicate well and have a fulfilling life. Having supports in the community will greatly enhance your child's capabilities, as well as your own well-being and happiness.
    • Look for therapies that will increase your child's coping abilities, and give them new skills. Avoid normalization or compliance therapies, as these will harm your child.[20][21]
    • Don't forget your own needs! See if there's a support group for parents that you can join, or a group that provides parenting advice catering to special needs. Your mental and emotional health are important both to your child and to yourself.
  5. Image titled Man Reacts to Anti Autism Hate Speech.png
    Choose support groups carefully. Some parent groups provide support and understanding, but others trumpet martyrdom and paint autism as the enemy.[22] The latter will scare you, and hurt your child.[23][24] Carefully research a group to ensure that it is inclusive of autistic people, and that the autistic community supports it instead of protesting at its doors.[25]
  6. Image titled Laughing Woman with Cerebral Palsy and Man.png
    Make autistic friends. Along with being cool and funny, autistic adults will help you visualize what your child will be like as an adult.[26] They will also help your child's self-esteem by showing that autistic adults exist and are good people. They may also be able to offer insights into autism that no non-autistic therapist could.
  7. Image titled Autistic Girl Spinning in Dress.png
    Accept that your child is going to be different. They may flap their hands in grocery stores. They may use sign language instead of speaking. They may speak in an idiosyncratic way, and you might have to try harder to understand them. However, this does not mean that your child will be incapable of loving you, finding fulfillment, and making a meaningful contribution to the world. Recognize that "different" is no lesser than "normal", and that it's okay if your child has special needs.
  8. Image titled Autistic Girl and Grandma Read.png
    Teach your child as much about autism as is age-appropriate. (Your research from before will help you.) Look for books written by and about autistic people.
    • It's better to tell the child before they enter grade school, as being surrounded by their peers will quickly signal to them and to their classmates that they are different. If they don't know that they are autistic, they may feel confused about why they are unlike everyone else.[27]
    • Since accurate and accepting media about autism is hard to find, you can also point out characters who seem to display some characteristics (without an official diagnosis). For example, "Do you see how she loves computers and asks her friends to understand how others are feeling? I think she's kind of autistic, just like you!" Say this in a kind or goofy way, so your child knows that it's okay to be autistic. A few autistic role models (official or not) may greatly improve your child's self-esteem.
    • Older children and teens may benefit from reading articles on autism. You can direct them towards wikiHow articles such as Accept Your Autism or towards the autistic community online.
  9. Image titled Cheerful Boy and Therapist Write Bedtime Ideas.png
    Work together with your child to treat symptoms. Treat your child like an active participant, instead of the object of a project. Your child can help define and work towards your goals.
    • Brainstorm coping strategies with your child.
    • Be cautious about therapies. Therapies should be consensual and fun, and not based on normalization. Compliance therapies could hurt your child[28] and leave them vulnerable to abuse.[29] If you listen and respond with respect when your child says no, they will learn boundary-setting skills and ask for help when they need it.
  10. Image titled Silly Family Eating Dinner.png
    Give yourself and your child a break. You do not need to put your child through 40 hours of therapy per week.[30] You don't need to spend every minute hovering over them or micromanaging what they do.[31] No one will die if your child learns to write a little late. Let your child be a child, and have time for relaxation and self-directed activity. Give yourself time to rest, relax, and stop obsessing over developmental timelines and "should"s and "shouldn't"s.[32][33] It isn't good for your child, and it certainly isn't good for you.
    • If you find yourself getting too upset, stop. Take a deep breath. Say "I'm stressed and I need a break." Then take a minute to relax, ground yourself, and maybe use some of those coping skills that you want your child to learn. You don't need to have all the answers right away.
    • It's normal for autistic kids not to meet their milestones at the average times.[34] Some milestones might come early, and some might come late. Throw out the standardized calendar, and instead focus on what your child can do, and on what they are ready to learn to do. Don't worry about what the next-door neighbor's kid is doing.
  11. Image titled Woman and Autistic Girl Sitting.png
    Learn about respectful parenting and inclusivity. Assuming that your child is competent and trying hard[35][36] will help them feel safe and behave well.[37] Pushing them too hard will only hurt them.
    • Acknowledge that your child is different, and difference is okay. They are loved and valued, autism and all. Disability does not lessen human dignity.
    • The autistic community encourages the following as inclusive language: identity-first language ("autistic person" instead of "person with autism"),[38][39] avoidance of arbitrary functioning labels (high vs. low functioning),[40][41] no demonization of autism,[42][43] recognition that it is a lifelong disability (symptoms can be treated, but autism cannot be "fixed"),[44] and eschewing pitying language (e.g. "so brave" or "suffers from autism").[45] Visit the sources to learn why this language is inclusive.
  12. Image titled Woman Hugs Girl.png
    Put your child's happiness first. It doesn't matter if your child spins in public. It doesn't matter if your child doesn't talk. It does not matter if your child has a ridiculously focused interest in bridges. What makes us human isn't just what's "normal". It's our kindness and love that matters most of all.


  • Avoid reading about damaging parent-run organizations late at night. The dehumanizing rhetoric, abuse, and child murder issues may disrupt your sleep.

Sources and Citations

Show more... (46)

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Autism Spectrum | Autism Diagnosis Process