Accepting a Special Needs Diagnosis

See past the challenges to enjoy the possibilities
Photo courtesy of Bea Moise
Don’t compare your life to others, says Bea Moise, pictured here with her son who has autism.

We all want to be accepted. Parents, in particular, want their children to be acknowledged,  feel wanted and loved by the people that they encounter. From peers to adults, acceptance is an important aspect of human connection. But what happens when it is you, the parent, who is having a hard time with acceptance?

For parents who learn for the first time that their child has special needs, their personal response is usually filled with uncertainty and emotions. When I was told that my son had autism, my response was, OK, let me start with interventions. My husband’s response, however, was, “let’s get another opinion and wait until he is 6 years old before ‘labeling’ him.” He was filled with questions and concerns, and it took him a longer to accept the diagnosis.

The sooner you accept the diagnosis, the sooner you can begin to enjoy the possibilities and potential of your child. While he or she may never meet your previous expectations, you will soon discover there are other perspectives. To fully accept the diagnosis, you have been given here are some things you can do.

Don’t compare. Judging your life or another person’s life based on social media or another family’s day-to-day existence is a definite way to hinder progress. It is hard to focus on what you and your family need if you are basing it on someone else’s life. Use social media as a resource tool for groups and networking with other families who have experienced a similar situation. You may find yourself hanging out with a different social group of like-minded individuals who can help you establish a new tribe. 

Find your tools. In the world of special needs, success looks different. Success when living with special needs requires realistic expectations of what your child is capable of doing. Changing expectations does not mean that you are lowering the bar, but the timeframe and how things are done will look different. Acquire the tools that you need to work toward realistic expectations. Invest in your child and yourself by purchasing books, attending group-networking sessions, and reading articles on your child’s diagnosis. Get the tools that you need to move to the next phase.

Seek advice. You may benefit from seeking professional guidance with dealing with your own bias and stigmas that you may have about special needs. Talking to someone about how you feel and your concerns about the future can help you gain control of fears and anxiety about your child’s future. 

A second opinion is OK. It is always a good idea to get a second or even third opinion. Making sure that your child has the correct diagnosis can only be beneficial for seeking interventions. Putting a child through multiple testings to simply come up with the same conclusion, however, is not beneficial. There are different types of professional assessments that a child can receive when trying to determine if there is a developmental delay. A child psychologist, psychiatrist or educational psychologist can provide an assessment. While these assessments can be costly, when correctly performed, they can provide an accurate profile of a child’s abilities. Once your child’s diagnosis has been confirmed, move forward with putting interventions in place. 


Beatrice (Bea) Moise is a board-certified cognitive specialist and is the founder of A Child Like Mine, a company created for educating parents of children with unique behavioral and learning needs, while giving them the tools they need to be successful at home. She is also a parenting coach at Southeast Psych in Charlotte. She and her husband have two children, Jacob — who is awesomely autistic — and Abigail who is simply marvelous.