(Inside: No One Knows Your Autistic Child’s Future. Who they are at 3 isn’t who they’ll be at 13 or 30. An autism diagnosis does NOT mean your child’s development is done!)
When people join my Embracing Autism community, I ask them what their biggest question about autism is. And more and more, my admins and I have been seeing the same themes over and over again…
“I just want my child to have the best future possible…”
“I wish I knew what will happen when my child is older…”
“I just want to help my child have a successful life in the future…”
It’s clear that parents are seriously concerned about their autistic children’s future, and I don’t blame them.
See, when you get an autism diagnosis for your child, the doctors can fill you with a ton of fear.
“Your child is non-verbal, they’ll never communicate.”
“Your child might never graduate high school or live independently.”
“Your child will always struggle to make friends and may never have true relationships.”
But today, I’m going to let you in on a little secret… And it all boils down to this:
3 Isn’t 13. And 13 isn’t 30.
See, who your child is today is not the same person your child will be ten or twenty years down the road.
And no one – not even your child’s therapists or doctors – knows your autistic child’s future.
(Image description: Mom holds a young boy outside facing away from the camera. Teal and coral text on a white background reads: “No One Knows Your Autistic Child’s Future” at the bottom of the image. White Autistic Mama infinity logo in the top right corner.)
3 Isn’t 13. And 13 isn’t 30 | No One Knows Your Autistic Child’s Future
(Related: 5 Powerful Autism Secrets They Don’t Tell You at Diagnosis)
If your child struggles with communication, or social skills, or meltdowns, take a deep breath. Because struggling with something in childhood doesn’t mean they’ll forever struggle with these same exact things.
Think about it. What did you struggle with when you were in elementary school?
I’m willing to bet that you don’t still have those exact same behaviors.
Your Child Doesn’t Stop Developing When They are Diagnosed
See, so many people get their child’s autism diagnosis and they just think that life and development stops.
But the fact is, your child is constantly learning new things and growing in new ways.
When my son got his diagnosis, he only communicated through movie scripts, and now he has full conversations with people.
And spoiler alert: we didn’t put him in hours and hours of intensive autism therapies to get these kinds of results… We just followed his lead, connected with him, and supported him in his own natural development timeline.
Oh yeah, and my son was diagnosed when he was 4, and he’s now 8. Just imagine what he’ll be doing when he’s 14!
No One Knows Your Autistic Child’s Future
Now, the fact is, no one knows your autistic child’s future.
Not the doctors, not the therapists, and not even me.
While I can say that my son has had leaps in his development since we learned about his diagnosis and better understood how to support him, I can also acknowledge that some autistic children will continue to be non-speaking well into adulthood.
But here’s the thing: Even if your autistic child is non-speaking into adulthood, that’s okay!
There are tons of non-speaking adult autistics who are leading fabulous lives.
And even though these autistics are still non-speaking, or still have meltdowns, or still have social struggles… They’re still completely different people as adults than they were as children.
See, just because an autistic person’s autistic behaviors don’t change, that doesn’t mean they aren’t developing.
All autistics are just developing on their own natural timeline, even if it isn’t easy for others to see and understand that development.
Don’t Limit Your Child Based On Their Abilities at Diagnosis
The bottom line in this entire post is this: Who your autistic child is at 3 does not tell you who they will be at 13, or who they will be at 30.
So I want to challenge you… Don’t limit your child based on their abilities when they’re diagnosed.
Remember that your autistic child will continue to grow and develop in their own way after their diagnosis, just like they grew and developed before their diagnosis.
No one looks at a 6-month-old baby and thinks “they can’t talk, so clearly they’ll never talk” or thinks “they can’t walk, clearly they’ll never walk on their own”.
It’s so much better to presume competence with your autistic children.
Assume that your child will be able to do whatever they want to do. Assume that your child is capable of learning and growing and developing on their own timeline.
Then your job as their parent is all about supporting your child as much as you can in that development.
And everything becomes a whole lot easier from there, I promise!
If you loved this post, you might also enjoy…
25 Awesome Things About Autism
How Autism Steals Your Child | What Really Happens to Autistic Children
5 Important Steps to Take After Your Child’s Autism Diagnosis
I will be teaching second grade again next year. I will have two students who are diagnosed with ASD and was wondering if you could make suggestions as to things you wish your child’s teacher did to help him/her succeed in an inclusive classroom. I want to make this a very positive year for these two youngsters.
Very eye-opening post. Thanks for these positive outlook on our autism kids.
I’m not an autism mama but I have an autism nephew. He’s now 12 but is still non-verbal, although has around 10 words that he uses constantly.
His behavior is much improving according to my sister, so we’re really hopeful that he will continue to improve especially with regards to his communication and social skills.
I am constantly battling with this same issue. i am the mother of a beautiful 5yr old boy. Even friends and family often hesitate interaction because they dont know how to communicate with him. He’s mostly non verbal, uses the point & gesture to tell you what he wants and requires pictures or show & tell to receive info. But once i tell them what he needs, they want to try & see if they can figure out what he wants. Its like watching them crack some security code! Think they are more excited than he is when the solve the riddle!!
the best advice i can give is to educate the other children. You and I as adults understand that he may need special directions or rules may be different, but the other children usually dont get this.
There is only one thing more heartbreaking than hearing another child ask “whats wrong with him?” And that is when its followed by their parent saying “i don’t know, leave him alone” or “don’t talk to him”
That is our fear, that other kids wont talk to him, or treat him like is different (in a bad way) Educate the others, let them know that he learns differently. My son may need picture directions, let the others get involved. They can help make the pics, they can help with labeling items in the classroom. The little ones especially think this is fun. Its a win win!! they are all learning, working together, and no one feels out of place.
Then the kids can back & educate their parents!!