Zoom Autism Magazine Issue 2 - Page 45

try to bring some clarity to these issues. Offer neutral, objective explanations for social behavior. Don’t denigrate or belittle others—adding more negativity to the discussion can do more harm than good. But where possible, try to find measured, practical descriptions as a counter to self-defeating narratives. Help Prioritize A commonly made mistake is to put too much emphasis on accepting the diagnosis and not enough on the underlying barriers to that acceptance. In a situation where there are bigger issues to focus on, make those a priority; the diagnosis stuff can come later. Let’s say that someone is depressed because they feel ashamed of their differences. If they are diagnosed as being on the spectrum, simply accepting that label is unlikely to put a dent in the depression. Depression is complicated. It involves so many nuanced, interconnected issues that a simple diagnosis is not enough to address the way it operates. However, once those issues have been sorted through, it can be so much easier to feel more at peace about life on the spectrum. Give it Time Absorbing a diagnosis like autism spectrum disorder can be overwhelming, especially during a time like adolescence, when so much of what we know about ourselves and our relationships is in flux. People need time to understand who they are. They need time to sit with that understanding. I know it’s painful to see someone you love struggle with these issues, but (within reason) it’s important to give them the freedom and emotional space to just be so that they can sort through these shifting internal landscapes. Being patient and giving them as much time as they need is also a way to show respect. Nothing builds a stronger sense of trust than feeling respected. They may not be willing to discuss the diagnosis now, but if they know that you respect what they are going through, that can leave the door open for discussion at a later time. Final Thoughts I was able to work through anger about the diagnosis and depression, but it took time, and it required the help of someone who had been trained in these issues. It’s important to note that everyone on the spectrum is different; the suggestions in this article are certainly not going to be applicable in all cases. The goal here is simply to offer ideas that can hopefully be part of a beneficial conversation between family members who are trying to navigate these issues. From personal experience, I know it can be a serious challenge. But I also know there is light at the end of the tunnel. M. Kelter writes about life on the autism spectrum at his blog, Invisible Strings. You can visit his Twitter and Facebook page, where positive discussions with an active parent community are ongoing. He has been a guest contributor for Kate Winslet’s Golden Hat Foundation blog and The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism. Zoom Autism Through Many Lenses 45