The Tough Stuff: Why Denial About Autism Hurts (and What You Can Do)

Let’s face it, parenting is a rollercoaster. Throw in a diagnosis like autism, and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed. But sometimes, all these overwhelming thoughts and emotions can morph into denial. We all want the “perfect” kid, the one who aced all their milestones and fits neatly into a box. Autism messes with that picture, and it’s scary.

Here’s the thing: denial about autism hurts. It delays the incredible progress a child can make with early intervention. Imagine a little girl, Amna, who struggles with loud noises, receptive and expressive language and repetitive behaviors. Early intervention can teach her calming techniques and strategies to navigate the overwhelming world. But if her parents are in denial, they might dismiss her meltdowns or not seek out therapy. That missed opportunity can make life much harder for Amna down the line.

Why Denial Happens


It’s more than just not wanting to believe it.

Denial is a natural human defense mechanism. It allows us to process difficult information in smaller doses. When faced with a diagnosis like ASD, parents might feel a range of emotions, including grief, guilt, or fear of the unknown. Denial can be a way to manage these overwhelming emotions and give themselves time to adjust. As such, you shouldn’t judge yourself too harshly.

There are other factors that contribute to denial too. Some parents may have misconceptions about autism, fueled by outdated stereotypes. They might worry that a diagnosis will limit their child’s potential, or fear judgment from others. Cultural beliefs can also play a role, with some cultures emphasizing “normalcy” and discouraging open discussions about disabilities.

Here’s the key takeaway: Denial is a common reaction, and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. It simply means you need some time (and support!) to navigate this new reality.

How Denial Hinders Your Child’s Progress


While denial might feel protective in the short term, it can have a significant impact on your child’s development. Autism is a spectrum, and children with ASD can benefit greatly from early intervention therapies. These therapies can help them develop essential skills in communication, social interaction, and behavior management. The earlier these interventions begin, the greater the impact they can have on your child’s long-term success.

Studies highlight the importance of early intervention. Previously, we’ve covered this in our blog. They show that children who receive intervention before the age of 3 have shown significant improvements in areas like social skills, language development, and overall functioning. Denial can delay this crucial window of opportunity.

Remember, an autism diagnosis is just a starting point. It’s a way to understand your child better and access the resources and support they need to thrive.

Challenges Parents Might Face Down the Road


Denial can also lead to further challenges for parents down the line. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Missed Opportunities for Support: Delaying intervention can mean missing out on critical therapies and support programs. These programs can equip parents with strategies to help their child at home and school.
  • Increased Behavioral Issues: Without proper support, children with ASD may struggle to manage their behaviors. This can lead to frustration and meltdowns, creating a stressful environment for both parent and child.
  • Social Isolation: Children with ASD might struggle to connect with peers, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Early intervention can help them develop the social skills they need to build friendships.
  • Educational Difficulties: Children with ASD might have specific learning needs that go unrecognized without a diagnosis. Early intervention specialists and educators can work with parents to create a personalized learning plan that supports their child’s unique needs.


The Importance of Seeking Help and Building a Support Network

If you’re struggling with denial, know that you’re not alone. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Talk to your child’s doctor or therapist: They can answer your questions about autism and guide you towards reliable resources and support groups.
  • Connect with other parents of children with ASD: Talking to parents who have been down a similar path can be incredibly helpful. They can share their experiences and provide emotional support.
  • Educate yourself about autism: The more you know about ASD, the more comfortable you’ll feel about your child’s diagnosis and the better equipped you’ll be to advocate for their needs.


Remember, getting your child the right support doesn’t diminish your love or acceptance for them. It simply means taking an active role in helping them reach their full potential.

It’s a Journey, Not a Destination


It’s important to acknowledge that accepting an autism diagnosis and navigating life with your child might be an ongoing journey. There will be challenges along the way, but there will also be moments of immense joy and pride.

Focus on celebrating your child’s unique strengths and accomplishments. Embrace the journey, seek support, and remember, there is a whole community of people out there cheering you both on.

Read more here:

My Story: No Shortcuts for Autism

My Story: No Shortcuts for Autism

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