The community I was from is set up for autistic people, people like me, to fail. One of the big issues in a minority community is that mental health is not addressed and no one believes in it. The resources are usually not available or difficult to find for people in minority communities. There are also long-standing traditions of mental health denial because of a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality. Because minority communities have often faced severe oppression and suffering in many ways, they have built an ideology about being strong and not helpless or weak. This has had many adverse effects on the mental wellbeing of the people within those communities.
Since mental health was somewhat of a myth to the community, it was a struggle I endured in my entire life.
I’m an African American male who comes from a community where if you displayed behavior that is associated with a mental illness, you were punished. African American communities often believe strongly in going to church, and they will tell you to pray about it and not seek help from a mental health professional. If you seek help from a mental health professional, you are viewed as weak. They tell your child to “man up, it’s all in your head, you’re making it up, etc.”
It’s hard to accept a mental health diagnosis in the Black community because of traditions we have been taught with.
Nobody in my community accepted my autism diagnosis, and I was ridiculed for seeking help. It was not until I was 22 years old, when I had my third suicide attempt, that I received help and support for my autism and other disabilities.
Today, to help others avoid this struggle, I have composed a list of ways you can accept your child’s diagnosis no matter how severe it is. Remember, you can be victorious and become an expert and advocate for your child.
1. Accept your child’s diagnosis
It’s easy to be in denial of your child disability, but it’s hard to accept the diagnosis. It’s not your fault you did not do anything wrong, remember you are blessed to have a child with a disability. If you accept your child’S diagnosis, you begin to accept your child for being who they are.
2. Learn about the disorder
Seek to understand your child’s diagnosis, and ask questions regarding what to do and how to approach your child, no matter how ridiculous it may sound. Asking questions is the first step to understanding your child’s diagnosis and understanding your child better. Write down your questions before each doctor’s appointment or meeting, write down future questions, and get copies of all documentation from physicians, teachers, and therapists regarding your child. Get a journal and record information to help you deal with the diagnosis and to refer to the answers when dealing with your child.
3. Do research and understand
Call a friend, seek help from a professional that deals with the disorder your child has, surf the internet, ask questions, do whatever you have to do to get the information.
“Wisdom is the prime thing. Acquire wisdom; and with all that you acquire, acquire understanding.”Proverbs 4:7
So when you are conducting research and getting information, it is important that you understand what you are reading and what information you are acquiring. Ask your child’s physician or specialty doctor to break it down step by step on how to deal with a child with a disability. Get handouts on the disorder on websites such as NAMI,Aspergers101, Autism Speaks and more.
“Good, better, best, never let it rest until your good is better and your better is best.”Tim Duncan
Never give up until you have the information and you become an expert, there is always room to grow and improve.
4. Find support groups
Seek help from other parents or find a support group that deals primarily with the disorder. The support group will help you get an accurate knowledge of your child’s disease and how to cope with it. Support groups are comprised of parents, self-advocates, siblings of a person with a disability, and professionals that work with people with disabilities. Learn all you can and make sure you get the best out of it. Remember you are not only helping yourself but helping your child grow.
5. Find out about services in your area
Services can be a challenge for children with a disability, especially for a minority child. Yet, there exist both federal and state legislation on programs entitled for your child with special needs. Find early intervention programs in your neighborhood or city such as occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, ABA therapy and much more. There are many places that specialize in supporting children with special needs.
Remember, the earlier you seek help and find intervention services, the better the outcome for your child. The Early Childhood Intervention Program in Texas is a great example of this. ECI services children up to 3 years old with developmental delays, disabilities, and other diagnoses that affect development. If you are not in Texas, seek out your local government website for a similar program in your state.
6. Assess your child’s strengths and challenges
If your child has problems with understanding social cues, but can look an adult in the eye, you may want to focus on an intervention plan that helps a child with speaking. Get help on the area that child has problems in and praise and reinforce the strengths your child possesses. If your child can communicate in pictures, incorporate graphs, images for your child for they can build off that strength. If your child has challenges, please refer to outside help and acquire ways you can reinforce what your child is learning at home to help build them up.
7. Become an expert and advocate
If there is no one in your family, the doctors are negative, or if all else fails, you must be able to pick up the slack.
Remind yourself that you are doing the best you can and remember this is for your child, you’re doing the best for your child.
Become an expert on your child. Learn your child’s strengths and challenges to get others to support your child and help your child grow in the areas that they need. Do not rest until your good is better and your better is best, remember to ask questions and educate yourself and others about your child. Learn what works for your child and help them to see your child the way you do. No matter what others may say, your child’s improvement and success must be our number one priority
8. Remain positive
No matter how severe the diagnosis is or how negative the doctor or others may perceive your child, recognize that your child is a gift from God. You were proud when you gave birth to your child, be proud of how different your child is and get excited about their future. Understand that the doctor is not always right, so if they give your child a negative label, it is not the end of the world.
You have to remain positive and look at the brighter days ahead.
Nobody is going to understand your child better than you, so be your child’s voice, let your child be your heart, and get people in your corner who value that same thing.
Seek out people who appreciate your child for who they are and want to help your child succeed. Then, build that community of support so that you all can stay strong together.
by Maverick Crawford III
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