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Dear Ali,

My child was just diagnosed with autism.  She is 3 years old.  Did I do something wrong? I keep feeling like maybe it is something I did. I am an older mom (I was 35 when I got pregnant), could that be why? Is there anywhere I can go to get help for her? Are there any support groups for parents of Autistic children?

Beating myself up in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California


Dear SFV,

I’m so sorry to hear this. No parent wants the news that their child has been diagnosed with…well, anything.  No, you did nothing wrong. Please, let yourself off the hook.

There is no one cause of autism.  Autism researchers have found that a combination of both genetic and environmental factors increase (as well as those that decrease) the risk of the development of the autism spectrum disorder.  Additionally, a gene associated with autism can also be found in people who don’t ever develop autism and not everyone exposed to an environmental risk factor will develop autism.  In fact, studies show most will not.

I’m guessing by now you’ve experienced plenty of shock, blame, questioning, crying, and rage. That would be totally normal and expected. It’s time to rally the troops and move forward as quickly as possible, because your little girl needs you. The sooner you get her help, the more success she will have. In many places, there may be free or low-cost services available if your child is three or less. As for support groups, please email for support in your area. Or clink on the links below.

Wishing you much strength and patience on this unexpected journey,


Here is the link to the regional center in your area:

Here is a link to Autism Speaks for more information and to find resources in the U.S. and Canada:

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