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'The 15 things I want parents of newly-diagnosed autistic children to know'

By Jo Abi|

I still remember the day I found out my son Giovanni is autistic. And then blow me down with a feather, a few years later I was told my eldest son is also autistic!

These boys are like chalk and cheese, or ASD 2 (Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 2) and ASD 1 (Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 1) to use the correct terminology. How did I not know?!?

I'm now seven years into my autism journey and I have learned a few things, mostly the hard way. I have met so many parents who have recently found out their child is autistic and I know exactly how you are feeling.

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Jo Abi Today Show Nine Network 9Honey autism autistic ASD parenting children
Jo Abi with her children (from left) Philip, 18, Kitty, 13, and Giovanni, 14. (Supplied)

I also have an autistic partner now. We met at an Autism Awareness Australia event, as you do.

Watching him having to navigate life as an adult on the spectrum has been eye-opening but has also served as a reminder that my children will be autistic forever, that they are awesome, but that the world has a long way to go when it comes to neurodiversity.?

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Jo Abi Today Show Nine Network 9Honey autism autistic ASD parenting children
Abi with her partner who she met at an Autism Awareness Australia event. (Supplied)

Here are 15 things I wish I had known that first day, that I want you to know. But the bottom line is, you've got this.?

1. Everything is going to be okay. During times when it is not, other autism parents are happy for you to vent without judgement.

2. You child is exactly who they were meant to be.

3. There is nothing wrong with you or your child, but there are plenty of things wrong with people you already know, which you are about to find out about when you tell them your child is autistic.

4. There is no rush to do anything, take your time and wait until you are ready to seek interventions, therapies and support.

Jo Abi Today Show Nine Network 9Honey autism autistic ASD parenting children
'Your child is exactly who they were meant to be.' (Supplied)

5. Not everyone who works in this space is good at their jobs, or should be in their jobs, so feel free to walk away as soon as this becomes obvious.

6. When you find angels who are incredible at their jobs, learn everything you can from them.

7. You are the one who will make the biggest difference to your child, by learning from good therapists, much more than one hour a week will help them, so soak it all up.

8. Nobody knows your child better than you, you are the expert, trust yourself and back yourself.

Jo Abi Today Show Nine Network 9Honey autism autistic ASD parenting children
'You are the one who will make the biggest difference to your child.' (Supplied)

9. Set clear expectations for those in your inner circle when it comes to what your child needs, via text, email or face-to-face, however they will best listen.

10. Be picky about how you and your child spend your time, more therapy isn't better, it's quality over quantity.

11. You are now part of a big and beautiful autism community, welcome! We are all here for you on social media, through Autism Awareness Australia. We've been there and we get it. Supporting you is not a burden, it is a pleasure. We've got you.

12. The education system is not set up for your child. They are failing them, not the other way around.

Jo Abi Today Show Nine Network 9Honey autism autistic ASD parenting children
'You are now part of a big and beautiful autism community, welcome!' (Supplied)

13. The world is not set up for your child. That will be part of your work. As much energy as you spend on helping your child skill up for a neurotypical world, you also need to educate the neurotypical world about your child as much as possible, in anyway you can.

14. Look after yourself in any ways that you need so you are in the best position possible to help and support your child.

15. Walk away from anything and anyone that makes you or your child feel crappy. F-ck em.?

14. Autism isn't a disorder or a problem, it is a difference. Co-morbidities such as anxiety, sensory processing disorder and dyspraxia as well as speech delays and food aversions can be tricky, but they aren't autism.

15. No, seriously. Everything is going to be okay. More than okay. Neurotypical people are boring (joking!). Seriously, you are in for a fun, interesting and fascinating ride.

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