Unpacking an Autism Diagnosis and Planning Ahead
Published on: January 26, 2024
By: Kristin Bartlett


Picture this: you’ve just stepped off the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with receiving an autism diagnosis for your child or yourself. It’s a bit like being handed a map in a language you don’t quite understand yet, navigating a terrain you’ve never explored before. But worry not, you’re not embarking on this journey alone. Welcome to our blog post, “The First Step: Unpacking an Autism Diagnosis and Planning Ahead,” where we transform that bewildering map into a navigable guide filled with understanding, hope, and practical strategies.

Autism, a word that may have echoed through your thoughts since diagnosis, often comes with a suitcase full of questions, concerns, and yes, a fair bit of googling. It’s a spectrum, as diverse and colourful as a rainbow – though unpredictable, it is unique and full of hidden splendours. Here, we aim to gently unpack this suitcase, helping you understand what an autism diagnosis truly means and how to move forward with optimism and confidence.

Whether you’re a parent adjusting to the new reality of an autistic child, or an adult who’s just stepped through the door of self-discovery, this post is your first step towards understanding. We’ll talk about the what’s, the why’s, and the how’s of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), ensuring you have the knowledge to embrace this new chapter of life.

And speaking of understanding, let’s not forget our short course “What is Autism, Simply Explained“. This comprehensive online training is like a friendly neighbour who’s always there to lend a helping hand. It’s packed with engaging modules, interactive content, and specialist-led guidance, tailored to equip you with the essentials of understanding autism and the practical strategies to apply in daily life. And did we mention the supportive community that you will become a part of? 

So, put the kettle on, get comfy, and let’s start this enlightening journey together, shall we? Not to mention the free resources available to you at the end. After all, every great adventure begins with a first step, and you, my dear reader, are about to take it! 

Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

When it comes to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), it’s tricky because no two people are exactly the same. ASD is a complex, multifaceted neurodevelopmental condition that manifests differently in each individual. To understand autism, we must first embrace its diversity and unique presentation.

Grasping the essence of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is akin to understanding a kaleidoscope – every turn brings a different pattern, a unique blend of colours and shapes. ASD is a diverse and complex neurodevelopmental condition that manifests distinctly in each individual. To truly understand autism, we must appreciate its varied and individualized nature.

At its heart, ASD influences how individuals perceive their surroundings and interact with the world. It’s marked by variances in social communication and sensory experiences, along with a tendency for certain repetitive behaviours or intense interests. These aren’t deficits; rather, they’re variations of human experience, as diverse as the array of colours in a kaleidoscope. Some autistic individuals might have extraordinary talents in specific areas like music, computing, or detailed knowledge of a particular subject, while finding other aspects like social cues or bright lights more challenging.

One of the most common misconceptions about autism is that it’s a linear spectrum from ‘mild’ to ‘severe’. In reality, it’s more like a color wheel, with different hues and shades representing a wide range of abilities, challenges, and skills. Some autistic individuals may excel in areas like art, mathematics, or memory, while they might find social interactions or sensory environments challenging.

It’s also important to note that autism is a lifelong condition. There’s no ‘cure’ – and many in the autistic community would argue that the very notion of a cure is misplaced. Instead, the focus should be on understanding, support, and acceptance, allowing autistic individuals to live fulfilling lives.

In understanding ASD, we also acknowledge its early signs. These can include delayed speech development, limited use of gestures for communication, or a lack of interest in ‘typical’ play. Recognizing these signs can pave the way for early intervention, which can be crucial in supporting development.

Dispelling another myth: the notion that autistic individuals cannot lead successful lives. On the contrary, with the right support and understanding, many autistic individuals thrive, excelling in various fields and contributing significantly to their communities. The key is to provide the appropriate support and opportunities, allowing them to harness their unique skills and perspectives.

The Emotional Journey of an Autism Diagnosis

Receiving an autism diagnosis, whether for yourself or your child, can often feel like boarding a train without knowing the destination. It’s a journey that can evoke a whole spectrum of emotions – from confusion and concern to relief and understanding. Navigating this emotional terrain is a crucial part of coming to terms with the diagnosis.

Initially, many experience a whirlwind of feelings. There’s often surprise or shock, particularly if the diagnosis was not anticipated. For some parents, there might be a sense of relief in finally having an explanation for their child’s unique behaviours and challenges. Yet, for others, there could be worry about what the future holds. It’s essential to acknowledge that all these reactions are perfectly normal. Emotions can be unpredictable and changeable, and that’s okay.

Once the initial storm of emotions begins to settle, a period of adjustment follows. This is when reality sets in, and youSeeking support after an autism diagnosis may find yourself grappling with many questions and concerns. “What next?” “How can I best support my child?” or “What does this mean for my future?” During this time, it’s crucial to gather support – both through learning about autism and connecting with others who understand your journey. Remember, seeking professional advice or joining support groups isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a proactive step towards empowerment.

The journey also involves an emotional shift towards acceptance and understanding. This doesn’t mean giving up on hopes and aspirations; rather, it’s about redefining them in the context of autism. It’s about celebrating the small victories and embracing the unique strengths that autism brings. Yes, there will be challenges, but there will also be profound moments of joy, achievements, and growth.

Throughout this journey, it’s vital to take care of your emotional well-being. Just as the safety instructions on an airplane advise putting on your own oxygen mask before assisting others, ensuring your emotional health is key to being a strong support for your child or yourself. It’s not selfish to take time for self-care; it’s essential.

Remember, an autism diagnosis is not the end of a journey; it’s a new beginning, one that is as unique and full of potential as the individual it pertains to.

Early Signs and Intervention

Identifying early signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often involves carefully observing a range of behaviours and developmental milestones to understand the bigger picture. It’s important to remember that autism manifests differently in each individual. However, there are common early signs that can be indicators. Recognizing these signs and seeking timely intervention can be immensely beneficial.

So, what should you look out for? Some early signs might include limited or no eye contact, delayed speech development, a lack of or delay in responsive gestures like pointing or waving, repetitive movements (such as rocking or flapping), and challenges with changes in routine or environment. A child might show little interest in playing with other children or toys, or they might play with toys in an unconventional way, such as lining them up or focusing intensely on a particular part of the toy.

It’s like being a detective in your own home, observing and noting behaviours that seem out of the ordinary. It’s important, though, not to jump to conclusions based on a few signs. Each child develops at their own pace, and some of these signs can be a part of typical development. However, if you have concerns, it’s wise to seek advice from a professional.

This is where early intervention comes into play. It’s akin to planting a seed and nurturing it from the beginning to give it the best chance to grow and flourish. Early intervention involves therapies and services designed to help young children with autism develop essential social, communication, and learning skills. The earlier these interventions start, the better the outcomes tend to be. They can range from speech therapy to behavioural interventions, and they are tailored to meet each child’s individual needs.

Our course, “What is Autism, Simply Explained,” delves deeper into understanding these early signs and the importance of early intervention. It provides practical advice and strategies for those first crucial steps post-diagnosis. Think of it as a guiding light, illuminating the path towards supporting and enhancing the development of a child with ASD.

Remember, early intervention doesn’t imply that your child’s journey will be without its challenges. However, it provides a strong foundation for them to develop their abilities, navigate their challenges, and thrive in their own unique way.

Creating Autism-Friendly Environments

Imagine stepping into a room where everything feels just right – the lighting, the sounds, the amount of people. Comforting, isn’t it? For autistic individuals, creating autism-friendly environments can provide a similar sense of comfort and security. It’s about making spaces where they can thrive, learn, and be themselves without undue stress or discomfort.

At home, this could mean establishing a dedicated ‘quiet zone’ free from overwhelming sensory stimuli. It’s a bit like having a cosy corner in a bustling café; a place where one can retreat to enjoy a moment of calm. For children, this area could be equipped with their favourite toys or sensory tools, like a weighted blanket or soft, dimmable lights. It’s also helpful to maintain a consistent routine, as predictability can be a great source of comfort for autistic individuals. Visual schedules or charts can be incredibly useful, providing a clear and consistent outline of the day’s activities.

In schools, creating autism-friendly environments means more than just physical adjustments. It involves cultivating an atmosphere of understanding and acceptance. This might involve training for staff on how to effectively support autistic students, using inclusive teaching strategies, or providing sensory breaks throughout the day. Simple changes, such as allowing a child to wear noise-cancelling headphones in a noisy classroom, can make a significant difference.

In the wider community, autism-friendly environments can take many forms. For instance, some shops have introduced ‘quiet hours’ with reduced lighting and noise – a gesture that can make shopping trips much less stressful for autistic individuals and their families. Public spaces like libraries, museums, and theatres are increasingly offering sensory-friendly sessions, acknowledging the diverse needs of their visitors.

Remember, an autism-friendly environment is more than just a physical space; it’s an ethos. It’s about recognising and respecting the unique needs and comforts of autistic individuals. By making these adjustments, we’re not just altering spaces – we’re opening up a world of possibilities for autistic individuals to engage, participate, and feel valued in their community.

Leveraging Strengths and Addressing Challenges

Navigating through life with Autism involves a delicate balance of recognizing and nurturing individual strengths while effectively addressing the challenges. This balanced approach is crucial for the development and well-being of autistic individuals.

Let’s start with strengths. Many autistic individuals have distinct skills and talents which can range from having an extraordinary memory, exceptional attention to detail, to specific talents in areas like art, music, or technology. These strengths can be a source of personal fulfillment and can pave the way for successful careers and hobbies. Encouraging these talents not only boosts self-esteem and confidence but can also open up numerous opportunities.

However, alongside these strengths, autistic individuals often face various challenges. These can include sensory sensitivities, difficulties with social communication, adapting to changes in routine, and managing anxiety. Addressing these challenges is not about changing the person but about providing the right support and strategies. For example, managing sensory sensitivities might involve creating sensory-friendly environments, while enhancing social communication could be supported through specific therapies and consistent practice.

It’s important to emphasize that focusing on strengths does not mean neglecting the challenges. Rather, it’s about acknowledging and supporting the whole individual – their capabilities, their potential, as well as their areas of difficulty. This approach ensures a supportive environment where autistic individuals can thrive and make meaningful contributions based on their unique skills and perspectives.

Whether you are a parent, an educator, or a healthcare professional, understanding how to identify and foster these strengths, alongside addressing the challenges, is key. This approach helps in creating an environment that supports the growth and development of autistic individuals, allowing them to reach their full potential.

The Do’s and Don’ts After Receiving an Autism Diagnosis

Navigating the path after receiving an autism diagnosis can be like charting new territory. It’s crucial to approach this journey with a balanced mindset. Here are some essential do’s and don’ts to help guide you through this process:


  1. Do Educate Yourself About Autism: Knowledge is power. Understanding what autism means and how it can manifest is crucial. Seek reputable sources and educational materials like our course, “What is Autism, Simply Explained,” to gain a solid foundation of knowledge.
  2. Do Seek Professional Guidance: Don’t hesitate to reach out to healthcare professionals, therapists, and autism specialists. We can provide valuable insights and strategies tailored to your or your child’s unique needs.
  3. Do Advocate for Yourself or Your Child: Whether it’s in educational settings, healthcare, or within your community, being a strong advocate is crucial. Ensure that the necessary support and accommodations are in place.
  4. Do Build a Support Network: Connect with other families, support groups, or online communities who understand your journey. Sharing experiences and advice can be incredibly beneficial.


  1. Don’t Blame Yourself: Autism is not caused by parenting or environmental factors. It’s important to let go of any guilt or blame and focus on the way forward.
  2. Don’t Ignore Your Own Needs: It’s easy to get caught up in caring for an autistic child or dealing with your diagnosis, but neglecting your well-being can be counterproductive. Ensure you take time for self-care.
  3. Don’t Rush into Decisions: Take the time to research and consider various therapies, interventions, and strategies. It’s important to make informed decisions that best suit your or your child’s needs.
  4. Don’t Overlook the Importance of Emotional Support: Recognize and address the emotional impact of the diagnosis. Seeking counselling or therapy for yourself or family members can be an important part of the journey.

Remember, an autism diagnosis is a starting point, not a limitation. By following these do’s and don’ts, you can set yourself or your child on a path filled with growth, learning, and self-discovery. This journey is unique for every individual, and with the right approach, it can be a deeply rewarding experience. 

Planning for the Future

When it comes to planning for the future after an autism diagnosis, it’s about laying a foundation for growth, opportunities, and well-being. This process, although sometimes daunting, is an essential step towards a fulfilling and well-supported life. Here are key aspects to consider when planning for the future:

  1. Setting Realistic Goals: It’s important to set achievable and realistic goals for the future, whether they relate to education, career, independent living, or personal development. These goals should be tailored to the individual’s strengths, interests, and abilities. For example, if your child shows an affinity for certain subjects or activities, explore ways to nurture these interests further.
  2. Education and Career Planning: For parents, planning your child’s educational journey involves understanding their learning style and advocating for the right support in school. For autistic adults, exploring career options that align with your strengths can be empowering. Consider seeking advice from career counselors who have experience with ASD.
  3. Life Skills Development: Equipping autistic individuals with essential life skills – from daily routines to managing finances – is crucial for fostering independence. This might involve structured learning and practice in various life skills, tailored to the individual’s developmental stage and needs.
  4. Building Social and Communication Skills: While respecting the natural communication style of autistic individuals, it’s also helpful to develop social and communication skills to navigate the broader social environment effectively. This can be achieved through social skills training, therapy, or practical everyday interactions.
  5. Preparing for Transition Phases: Life is full of transitions, and for autistic individuals, these changes can be challenging. Whether it’s moving from school to college, starting a new job, or moving into a new living arrangement, preparing for these changes in advance can help make transitions smoother.
  6. Legal and Financial Planning: It’s prudent to consider long-term financial planning and legal arrangements, especially when planning for the care and support of an autistic individual. This might involve setting up trusts, guardianships, or making arrangements for future care.
  7. Building a Supportive Network: Cultivating a network of support – therapists, educators, family, friends, and community resources – ensures a safety net and a source of diverse assistance and advice.
  8. Ongoing Learning and Adaptation: The journey with autism is one of continuous learning and adaptation. Staying informed about new research, therapies, and support mechanisms is important.

In summary, planning for the future involves a comprehensive approach, considering the educational, social, emotional, and practical aspects of life. While it may require thoughtful planning and ongoing adjustment, it’s a process that can lead to rewarding outcomes and a fulfilling life. Remember, each step taken is a step towards building a future that celebrates the unique capabilities and possibilities of autistic individuals.


As we reach the end of our exploration into the journey following an autism diagnosis, it’s important to reflect on the key themes we’ve discussed. Navigating this path is not just about facing challenges; it’s about embracing a journey that is unique, rich, and full of potential.

We’ve delved into understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder, a condition as diverse as the individuals it touches. We’ve acknowledged the emotional rollercoaster that can accompany a diagnosis, highlighting the importance of support and self-care. Early signs and interventions have been discussed, emphasizing the positive impact they can have on development. We’ve explored how creating autism-friendly environments can provide comfort and stability, and the significance of leveraging strengths while addressing challenges.

In planning for the future, we’ve seen the importance of setting realistic goals, fostering life skills, and preparing for life’s transitions. Through all these stages, one thing remains constant: the need for understanding, patience, and a supportive community.

Remember, an autism diagnosis is not the end of a story; it’s the beginning of a different, often inspiring narrative. It’s about discovering new ways to communicate, to learn, and to connect. It’s about recognising and celebrating the unique strengths and perspectives that autistic individuals bring to our world. And most importantly, it’s about building a future where every individual, autistic or not, can thrive in their own way.

For those seeking further guidance and insight, our training “What is Autism, Simply Explained” offers a comprehensive resource as a short course. It is intended to support you on this journey by arming you with information and practical strategies.

As we conclude, let’s remember that understanding, acceptance, and support are key. Whether you’re an autistic individual, a parent, educator, or healthcare professional, you’re part of a wider community that’s learning, growing, and embracing diversity every day. Let’s continue to support each other on this journey, building a world that celebrates all forms of neurodiversity. 

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