Huffington Post Parents is looking at autism through the eyes of parents this week. Each day, they are running an essay about the stages of parenting a child with autism: the moment of diagnosis, the school years, teens, and entry into the adult world. We were excited to read this because, we too, recently kicked off a series about Autism Parenting in honor of Autism Awareness Month. We wanted to see what angle the Huffington Post was taking and the views of the writers they selected. We were optimistic that they would represent all the varying opinions of the autism community.
The first post was written by Hannah Brown and it was entitled, “Ten Things To Do After An Autism Diagnosis.” To be honest, we were somewhat surprised and disappointed after reading this initial post. We feel this was an odd choice by The Huffington Post. The author’s post was well written and has its place somewhere, but we don’t feel it was a good choice for introducing their entire series about autism parenting. Let us tell you why.
One, we feel The Huffington Post should have taken the time to introduce “the different faces of autism.” How can one post represent the autism community’s reaction to receiving the initial autism diagnosis? A parent’s reaction is going to be vastly different depending on the type of autism their child has… Classic Autism, PDD-NOS, Rett’s Syndrome, Asperger’s, and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. We feel The Huffington Post should have taken the time to have a parent who represents each of these 5 types of autism talk about their individual reactions to hearing an autism diagnosis. Instead, The Huffington Post chose a top 10 list to represent us. It felt flippant, like they picked the post out of a hat and thought “this is good enough.” The Huffington Post’s selection felt like a “rush job” for such a defining moment.
Two, the post seemed to be written in a “tongue in cheek” style which doesn’t seem appropriate for the life-changing, ground shaking moment a parent receives an autism diagnosis. We feel The Huffington Post should have selected a post that discusses the raw emotions a parent feels when they hear the word “autism” in connection to their child. This post seemed to jump ahead to a “to do” list instead of respecting the emotions brought forth by receiving an autism diagnosis.
Is it okay for us parents to have a moment to be sad as all our dreams are being redefined? Is it okay for us to be scared of the future for our children? Can we have a moment to digest and make sense of what we’ve just been handed? Are we expected to jump immediately into action mode? We don’t feel that most parents went right into checking off a to-do list upon receiving a diagnosis. That comes later. We know the author was just trying to share her “lessons learned,” which is good information, but just not what you want to hear when you first hear the word “autism.”
This post, once again, neglects to discuss and educate the outside world on how a parent feels when they receive the diagnosis. And as we’ve pointed out, when the public doesn’t “feel our pain” they do not feel compelled to help… to fund autism research, to help and support family or friends who have a child with autism, to keep their judgments and criticisms of autism parents to themselves. This was a huge missed opportunity by The Huffington Post to help us – the autism community.
The third reason we were surprised and disappointed by this post was because it did not discuss any sort of action plan to help the child. It failed to address how to handle potential health issues, how to find the right types of therapy, or where to get reputable information/advice. It was all about what we, as parents, can do for ourselves. We do feel it’s important to look out for and take care of ourselves (and the author offers some good tips), but we don’t feel that’s representative of most parent’s first reaction to a diagnosis. That comes later.
Because of these three reasons, we believe the author was met with very harsh criticisms of her post. Our hearts ached for her as we read the critiques. She’s another autism mom, just like us, who has dealt with the challenges of autism for many years. Putting ourselves in her place, we would have been extremely hurt by many of the comments. She’s had 12 years to reflect on what she wishes she would have done upon receiving the diagnosis and she was just trying to share it and perhaps, add a little humor to a difficult situation. We wish she wouldn’t have had to bear the brunt of such bitterness. The Huffington Post should have received the criticism for selecting the wrong post at the wrong time. Not her. Her post would have been quite appropriate later in their series.
To read the post and criticism for yourself, go to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/hannah-brown/autism-diagnosis_b_1390100.html?icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl11%7Csec3_lnk1%26pLid%3D148528.