Getting Out of Denial and Taking Action | Autism Denial

In 2-parent homes, usually, 1 parent is in more denial than the other, that their child might have autism.  This can cause tension in marriages. In today’s video blog, I’ll discuss autism denial and how to help get a parent out of denial and into action.

Each week, I provide you with some of my ideas about turning autism around. So, if you haven’t subscribed to my YouTube channel you can do that now.

In the first page of my book, The Verbal Behavior Approach, I talk about the very first time my husband mentioned the possibility of autism when Lucas was just 21 months old. I’m going to read you just the first page just to get a sense of what I was feeling. “I was a registered nurse with more than a decade of experience, but when my physician husband first mentioned the possibility that my then 21-month-old son Lucas might have autism, I was as bewildered and angry as any parent. To be honest, I had very little experience with autism, and it simply never crossed my mind that my first born son was anything less than perfect.”

“So what made my husband think that my son had autism? He pointed out that Lucas wanted to watch television too much, he didn’t play with toys, and that at times, Lucas simply appeared to be in his own world. At that time, I wasn’t willing to look at the possibility. I argued that Lucas had language, a good 10 words, which wasn’t that unusual for a child under two, and that he was a warm, cuddly baby. He didn’t look like he had autism since he didn’t fit the picture I had in my mind of what autism was supposed to look like. He wasn’t banging his head, rocking, or doing anything that I considered to be autistic. I told my husband on that day that he was crazy for bringing up autism and I told him that Lucas didn’t have it and that I never wanted to hear the word autism again.”

And, after he mentioned it and I told him I never wanted to hear it, I quickly went into a deep state of denial for over a year. This denial didn’t help anyone, especially Lucas, who fell further and further behind his peers to the point where I had to do something. But, that year was so critical. So, as I mentioned a minute ago, in 2-parent homes, 1 parent is usually partially or completely in denial about their child’s delays and possible autism. In our case, I was definitely the one in denial about Lucas’ autism, which is really hard to believe now.

One of my first video blogs 2 years ago is on autism denial, so you may want to check that out, too.  It’s kind of ironic that I was the one in denial back then because now, I am so far into the autism world. I say, speak, type, and write autism so many times a day I don’t even know if I could keep track. But I was in denial for about a year, and when I think back and when I look at the young children that I’ve worked with over the past years, I know that the year that I was in denial was such a critical year for Lucas.

But back in the late 1990s, when Lucas was starting to show signs of autism, I didn’t know any of these techniques, either. Now that I know the techniques, it’s very exciting when I get to work with very young children. That’s when we are going to see the most progress if we intervene at the earliest signs, and that’s why I’m on such a strong mission to help parents not be in denial. Whether it’s autism or not, I know these techniques that I’m teaching work like a charm.

To address autism denial, you need to realize that everyone has their own history, their own baggage, and their own culture, and understand the dynamics between parents. Whether it’s a single parent or 2-parent family, there are also grandparents and other relatives who often come into the mix, in terms of denial. I know my mother-in-law was one of the first people to tell my husband she thought there might be a problem. This was later after he mentioned the possibility. I know that there are other grandparents that are totally onboard or totally not onboard, and then you have to deal with the dynamics of all that going on, too.

Ready to learn more and start turning things around for your child or clients with autism? Sign up for my free online workshop!

What do you do with a parent that’s in autism denial? What if you’re starting to accept things yourself about delays in your child but your partner is not? For me, what got me out of denial after that whole year, where I literally was not open to discussing autism at all, was an autism mom that I went to visit. I didn’t have Lucas there with me at the visit, and at that point, I was still telling this mom that I thought it was just a significant language delay, not autism. But she had a child with autism, and she was telling me that even if Lucas just had a speech delay, as I was hoping, she suggested that I needed to learn about ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) treatment.

With ABA, even young children who were diagnosed with severe autism could be treated and in some cases, young children could recover from autism. This same autism mom, on the same day, told me that the earlier you start intensive ABA therapy, and the milder the autism to start, the better the outcome.

Basically, after a year in denial, this autism mom told me that there was a real treatment for kids with autism and real hope that ABA therapy could work. It could work even if Lucas didn’t have autism and it was just a speech delay. Either way, I needed to get on it and I needed to learn about ABA.  So literally on the way home from this mom’s house, I stopped at the bookstore and started looking into autism and ABA, buying two books and reading them very quickly.

After reading the description of autism in these two books that were both written by Catherine Maurice, I knew that Lucas had autism. More importantly, I knew that I needed to help get him diagnosed and start ABA as soon as possible. Today, more than 2 decades after my year of autism denial, there are more people that know other people who have kids with autism. There’s less stigma and there’s more evidence to show that intervening early can really turn things around. People are less likely to be in denial now than they were in the late 1990s, but autism denial is still a big issue for many people.

There’s also another big issue that wasn’t so bad back in the late 1990s. The waiting lists to get an autism evaluation and to get ABA therapy started are very long.  A lot of people are telling me, that just to get their child to a developmental pediatrician for an evaluation is a 9 month to a 2-year waiting list. Can you imagine if you thought your toddler might have cancer and were told that you’d have to wait 9 months to 2 years to get it looked at to see if it was actually cancer?

Then there’s often more lines and more waiting lists for good ABA treatment. It is just crucial that parents get out of autism denial as soon as possible and get on wait lists. But there’s a lot you can do to turn speech delays and early signs of autism around even without a diagnosis while you’re waiting for an evaluation.

If you’re a parent, grandparent, early intervention professional, or concerned friend, who is worried about a 1 to 3-year-old who is showing signs of autism, hyperactivity, excessive tantrums, or delays in language, I urge you to attend a free online workshop at When you get more information from the workshop, this will empower you to help get anyone out of denial and you can share that workshop with them, too. You may want to watch it first and gather some more information.

Wherever you’re watching this, leave me a comment, give me a thumbs up and share this video with others who might benefit, and I will see you right here next week.

Ready to learn more and start turning things around for your child or clients with autism? Sign up for my free online workshop!