It’s NOT your fault. Don’t be a receptacle for guilt; address your feelings of guilt instead of letting them fester. Guilt is something that will always be waiting in the wings; you just have to learn how to deal with it when it wants to make an appearance.

Once your child is diagnosed with Autism, you will engage in conversations about treatment choices such as ABA, discrete trial training, floor time and biomedical approaches. You will be told about the importance of eye contact, social skills, sensory issues and the development of receptive and expressive language, and much, much more.

But don’t lose yourself in this wave of information. It is important that you come to a place - a support group, a trusted friend, or a parent coach - where you can share your fears, your concerns, your strategies, your dreams and hopefully – your feelings of guilt.

Guilt is a parenting phenomenon – all parents experience occasional pangs of guilt so make sure you find a way to talk about it. This will help you rid yourself of the guilt you harbor and move forward in a positive way.

You may feel or say you have no guilt BUT pay close attention to this nagging little voice somewhere deep down inside that you are to blame for your child’s disorder. It may not be there all the time, but it will crop up occasionally.

When it does show up – DON’T listen! DON’T answer the door!
DON’T feed that emotion! It is NOT a useful or productive emotion. It will only slow you down.
If by chance you don’t feel you did anything to cause your child’s Autism, GREAT!

But if you feel that your child would be doing a little better or progressing faster if you had just done or not done this or that or had put more effort into it, PAY ATTENTION to this fact:

No matter how much you research, do, give, . . ., there will always be more.

Remember, you are a great parent! You are there for your child addressing her special needs and teaching her to accomplish small activities that most parents don’t even have to think about. You are balancing a lot on your plate and not many days go by when you are not filled with doubt or experiencing stress. Trust that you are doing your best.
Don’t look around and feel as if others are doing a better job than you because I’ll tell you a secret, they look at you and assume the same thing. Rather than getting sucked into the trap of measuring yourself against others realize that every parent is in a similar boat. Putting your energies into rowing your ‘own boat’ to shore instead of wishing you had a better one with decent oars or one with a motor will serve you and your child much better. Stop looking around at others and making comparisons so you can help your child optimize his greatest potential in a timely fashion.

Examples: How guilt can sneak up on you.

•Finally you get a break from a very busy day that revolved around your daughter’s therapies and tending your other child who was home sick from school. Your husband invites you to watch a movie with him but as soon as you get comfortable you say to yourself. “ I should be researching that new website and new methods of treatment. What if that new therapy my friend told me about is the answer to our prayers. I shouldn’t waste any time.”
•Your child with Asperger’s is interested in dinosaurs and names all the dinosaurs and wants you to repeat them back to him in robotic repetition. He asks not once, not twice, but endlessly and you participate until a little thought bubble over your head says, “This isn’t constructive”. “I should be teaching my child how to converse appropriately. What if I am only reinforcing bad habits?” To do so might risk a meltdown and maybe you’re multi-tasking to get the laundry done and also tending to your crying infant because she’s hungry. So you continue the banter about dinosaur lists with your child blaming yourself for not doing a better job.
•You have a visit from a friend and it’s been a while since you have had a visitor. Out of the corner of your eye while talking to her you notice your child lining up the matchbox cars he recently received from grandma and you think, “I shouldn’t be talking to my friend. I should be teaching my child how to play with those cars. What if he never learns appropriate play? I should be engaging my child.” Feeling discouraged, you are torn between telling your friend this is not a good time and redirecting your child.
•You spent time talking to other parents when picking your child up from preschool and some were talking about extra services, such as a social skills group, extra speech therapy or video modeling for their kids. Your mind suddenly switches gear to questioning your treatment decisions for your child. You tell yourself, “I should do more.” and promise to somehow find the time. You begin to doubt yourself, “What if what I am doing won’t help? Perhaps I should have signed my child up for an extra therapy class instead of karate.”

Did you notice that all of these examples have one thing in common - the words SHOULD, SHOULDN’T, WHAT IF. These particular words only lead to one result – a self-accusation of being a bad parent, which only helps perpetuate the guilt.

Please, put that guilt in perspective! While you may feel you’re not doing enough, you are to be honored and commended because parents of children with Autism are able to cope with more in a day, a month and a year than most can conceive of coping with in a lifetime.

You may not think you have what it takes but you do. If you have been given a challenge, you have also been given the ability to cope with it. Sometimes we are too focused on the problem that we miss the signals that highlight the gifts we have been given.

Your resilience, creativity and persistence will help your child progress and reach a potential that nobody thought possible. The progress you make may not go fast enough for you at times but if you consider for one moment where things might be had you done nothing since you suspected your child was different, you will see forward movement.

The great strides that you have made and those made by others in the Autism community are largely parent driven. The next time the guilt factor sets in, keep all of this in perspective and remember to keep putting on foot in front of the other.

Caution: Be prepared for when the Guilt Factor knocks on your door again. When it does simply acknowledge its presence but tell it you are too busy to entertain and shut the door - DON’T let it in.

Author's Bio: 

Connie Hammer, MSW, parent educator, consultant and coach, guides parents of young children recently diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder to uncover abilities and change possibilities. Visit her website to access Happy Parents, Happy Kids - Overcoming Autistic Behavioral Issues at, a program to help you change behaviors, and get your FREE resources - a parenting e-course, Parenting a Child with Autism - 3 Secrets to Thrive and a weekly parenting tip newsletter, The Spectrum.