One of the main things that I struggled with after my daughter was diagnosed was mom guilt after the autism diagnosis. To be perfectly honest? There are still days that I struggle with this. It wasn’t just limited to the initial autism diagnosis, as I’ve come to learn.
Did I Cause My Child’s Autism?
I can’t tell you the number of times I asked myself this question and I can tell you this:
You did not cause your child’s autism.
Autism is a developmental disability and a neurological disorder.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the term “refrigerator mothers” was used. Parents, and in particular moms, were accused of causing their child’s autism. Child psychologist, Bruno Bettelheim came up the term to describe moms who are emotionally unavailable. And that it was their lack of showing love and emotion that caused autism. It is now, however, widely understood that autism is biological in nature and not the result of any particular parenting style.
Did vaccines cause my child’s autism?
Parents will also wonder about this, and in particular the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. This was based on “research” that was conducted in 1998 by a British researcher named Andrew Wakefield. The theory was spread further by Jenny McCarthy. However, scientists across the globe have conducted similar research and have since proven Wakefield’s theory false. In addition, it was found that he falsified his report and had his medical license revoked.
So what causes autism?
Well, much of the research that goes into the causes of autism focuses on genetics and other biological factors.
- Maternal health during pregnancy
- Parental age (of both the mother and the father)
- Pollution and Exposure to Environmental Toxins
Want more help and advice? Grab my Autism Parenting toolkit!
Unfortunately, the funding available for research isn’t quite where it should be. Not just in the United States, but on a global level. When you consider how often autism is diagnosed now, there isn’t nearly as much research as there needs to be.
How to Silence the Guilt During the Autism Diagnosis
Now, again, I will admit — I put a lot of blame on myself after my daughter’s diagnosis. Oh yes, I pointed fingers big time and the one who got the blame? I looked in the mirror.
I know, I know — I just told you not to do it.
I just said to you — mama, it’s not your fault.
Because, I will tell you again — it’s what I needed to tell myself.
I needed to tell myself this over and over again.
It was not my fault.
I was in some serious need of self-love here. And beyond just that?
I was in some serious need of granting myself grace and forgiving myself.
The way that we treat ourselves has a lot more significance than we will possibly ever realize. I know that I’m my own worst critic and I cannot tell you how much I struggle with forgiving myself and finding something positive.
But then I had to ask myself this:
Would I say this to a close friend? These self-deprecating things that I hear in my head, would I say them to my best friend?
And, more often than not, of course we wouldn’t. Why would we jeopardize such a close relationship?
So why would we do that with ourselves?
Silencing the Nagging Mom Guilt
There really is a lot going on here, but it all starts with you.
Until you can learn to silence your own inner critic? That mom guilt is going to keep resurfacing.
It will still be there, in the back of your mind, ready to strike.
It will be there, when you think you’ve finally moved on, and rear it’s ugly head.
It will be there, when you think you’ve made progress, and drag you back down.
And that, my friend, is why it’s so important to start silencing that voice now.
Start reconciling your feelings around this diagnosis now.
One thing that might help is to keep a journal. Let all of your feelings and emotions out. Don’t hold back. It can sometimes help the process to just get these out of your head. Because, as long as they’re still in your head? The more chances you have of them just coming back around. If you don’t face them and you don’t confront them? They’re going to be there.
But then you have to take it one step further. Beyond just acknowledging these things? You need to deal with them. You need to confront them. You need to make change.
And if it’s the guilt, that self-guilt and self-blame — if that is what is dragging you down?
You need to forgive yourself.
You are not to blame.
You did NOT cause your child’s autism.
Your child is not autistic because of you.
Grant yourself this grace and grant yourself this forgiveness.
Silence that nagging guilt once and for all.
In my new autism diagnosis toolkit, I am including a checklist, printable timeline, and several other resources. These are the things I’d wish I’d had when my daughter was first diagnosed.
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