I am very excited to have Dr. Arturo Osorio with a guest blog post this month! He reached out to me with a desire to bring awareness to the importance of mental health and how it could impact a person’s life. He is a licensed physician practicing in Nicaragua. Dr. Osorio went to Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua (León), where he earned his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery Degree. He has been practicing medicine in public hospitals and private clinics since 2018.
Managing Stress While Waiting for Autism Diagnosis
When your child is being tested for autism, it’s normal to have a variety of feelings. Some may feel scared or anxious. Those who have been exposed to people with autism will probably be less so. After all, people with autism now live independent, successful lives with jobs, families, and fulfilling hobbies. Some even become famous actors, scientists, or activists.
If your family doctor or your child’s teachers feel that autism is a possibility, they might refer him to a proper medical evaluation. Testing for autism can be a long, drawn-out process. It can be a stressful time for you and your family. But with adequate support and stress-management tactics, you’ll be ready to face the unique challenges and gifts that come with raising a child with autism.
What is Autism?
Technically defined as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) includes a wide range of behaviors and developmental disabilities. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the child must have persistent deficits in each of three areas of social communication and interaction, such as:
1. Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity.
2. Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction.
3. Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships.
As ASD is a spectrum, it can appear in several forms, some of which might not be noticeable until your child is well into their school years. Each presentation has its own diagnostic criteria.
If your child’s doctor, teacher, or school feels your child may have autism, or if you suspect it yourself, it is best to get proper testing. Autism screenings are in general and more in-depth look at how your child is developing cognitively, their fine and gross motor skills, and behavioral issues. Testing can take time and can be incredibly stressful, as waiting results can be even more stressful due to an uncertain future for your child and your family.
Dealing with Stress While Testing and Waiting for Results
For some, this is a stressful time. There are many unanswered questions and concerns for you and your child. But it is important to find positive ways to deal with stress so you don’t develop dangerous habits like substance use disorder or fracturing your family relationship. Here are some pointers for keeping your calm while dealing with the stress of autism testing.
If you do not already exercise, now would be a good time to start. Exercising helps burn off nervous energy, and it will help keep both your body and mind in good shape. Activity does not have to be vigorous to be helpful. Simply taking a walk will do you some good.
2. Stay Connected
Make sure that you stay connected with important people in your life. Do not be afraid to express your concerns and fears with family or friends. Times like these are what friends are. Use the support system you have already got. They’ll offer insights you won’t get from people who don’t know you.
3. Get Plenty of Rest
Take things slowly. Sleep is crucial for both your body and mind and will give you the strength you need right now.
4. Eat a Healthy Diet
You are what you eat. And filling up on junk when you are stressed will only leave you feeling worse. Eating healthy foods to feel good inside and out. This will not just help you while dealing with the stress, but it might help you as your future unfolds should you need to deal with the disabilities and challenges of an autistic child.
5. Be Proactive
Take this time to do some research. Be as prepared as you can so you know what to expect, and do not be afraid to ask questions. Learning as much as you can about autism will help you become the advocate your child needs now and in the future.
They say laughter is the best medicine. And it is true. It can reduce stress, relax muscles, lower your blood pressure, and boost your immunity. So try to infuse some laughter and humor into your family’s lives. Pop some popcorn and stream some favorite comedies. Invite some friends over for chuckle-inducing games like Telestrations and Apples to Apples. Laughing with your family and friends will help take your mind off the test, reduce stress, and strengthen your bonds with those you love most. You will need those rock-solid relationships down the line, regardless of what the test results say.
autismparentingmagazine.com – Famous People with Autism
mayoclinic.org – Autism Spectrum Disorder – Symptoms and Causes
cdc.gov – Screening and Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder
sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – How Sleep Affects Mental Health and How to Improve Rest
usa.edu – How Laughter Can Relieve Stress + Ideas to Laugh it Off
cdc.gov– Diagnostic Criteria | Autism Spectrum Disorder