Episode 46: Consciously Raising Autistic Children & How to Best Support Yourself Through an Autism Diagnosis with Maria Davis-Pierre
So, your child just received an Autism diagnosis… Now what?
In this episode, Maria Davis-Pierre and I talk about what it’s like receiving an Autism diagnosis for your child, next steps you should take after learning that your child is Autistic, and how to best support yourself and your child through the challenges you may face thereafter, including mental health struggles, ableism, and racism. We also define ableism and masking in the context of Black Autism and highlight the two most important things you can do for your Autistic child.
Maria Davis-Pierre LMHC is the Founder and CEO of Autism in Black Inc., an organization that aims to bring awareness to Autism and reduce the stigma associated with the diagnosis in the Black community. Maria’s unique approach exemplifies her drive and motivation toward greater acceptance and overcoming the barriers and personal struggles associated with raising a Black autistic child.
Maria is the mother of three, a set of 6 year-old twins and an Autistic 9 year-old who was diagnosed at 18 months. After a difficult journey getting her daughter’s Autism diagnosis, Maria found it even more challenging to exist in and be supported by support groups dedicated to parents and children with disabilities.
“People just didn’t understand how it’s truly different for us raising Black children in general and then black children who have disabilities. My worries are completely different,” she says. It was traumatic for Maria to experience the blatant racism and ableism present in school systems and support groups. “That is really what started the journey of creating Autism in Black was seeing not only the stigmas within our community that we have to overcome, but also outside of our community that we have to push through… We’re providing support to Black parents raising Autistic children and then also training organizations on [how not] to harm the disability community.”
The two most important things you can do for your Autistic child is recognize that 1) Autism is a spectrum and 2) you must do your own research to figure out the best ways to support your child’s individual symptoms and needs. Autism looks different for every human. Don’t treat your child as if they’re just like the media’s representation of Autism. My daughter, Gia, is a happy, joyful child because I have done the work to understand her and make sure that I’m supporting her and advocating for her individual needs. This is where conscious parenting comes in to flex its power. Focus on your child’s strengths and utilize them to empower your child to advocate for themselves in ways they can do so.
There will be times that you fail, there will be times that you will be triggered, but you need to give yourself the grace to accept your failure, apologize to your child, and move on. The best thing you can do when you rupture is to repair.
Advice for parents struggling to self-regulate during stressful parenting moments:
- Take a moment, for as long as you need, to think before you react. If you’ve already begun to react, you still have the power to pause and rethink before you continue reacting.
- Acknowledge your own emotions. It’s okay to feel your feelings!
- Integrate self-care and “me time” into your life. Taking intentional time to tend to your mental health is very powerful and causes a positive ripple effect in your family.
So, your child was just diagnosed as Autistic… What’s next?
Maria suggests you get honest with yourself about your feelings. Oftentimes, parents feel a lot of shame and guilt for the emotions they initially feel after their children receive that diagnosis. Feel those feelings! Then, be mindful of what resources you’re consuming, like blogs, support groups, and articles, because not everything will work for your situation. Make decisions based on your unique household, not based on someone else’s. Then, get a support system made of people who are like you and who look like you. It’s also very impactful to connect with adult Black Autistic people to better understand what enables them to thrive in life.
Our society was not created to accommodate us and our children, but there are tactics we can use to improve the quality of our lives and create an empowered, supportive, thriving life for ourselves and our kids.
This is a journey with no clear destination. Embrace it, enjoy it, and make it conscious.
Listen in to this powerful discussion to learn more!
About Maria Davis-Pierre:
Maria Davis-Pierre LMHC is the Founder and CEO of Autism in Black Inc. This organization aims to bring awareness to Autism and reduce the stigma associated with the diagnosis in the Black community. Her unique approach exemplifies her drive and motivation toward greater acceptance and overcoming the barriers and personal struggles associated with raising a Black autistic child. Maria has been featured in Forbes, The New York Times, USA Today, Parents Magazine, PBS and has collaborated with Microsoft.
To connect further with Maria & Autism in Black:
Visit Autism Black’s website: www.autisminblack.org
Connect with them on Facebook: www.facebook.co/autisminblk
Follow them on Instagram: www.instagram.com/autisminblack