Suspecting your infant, toddler, or child has Autism can be confusing, overwhelming, and even frightening for some families. It’s so important, first and foremost, to reach out to your support system and allow yourself the help you likely need as you navigate this new territory.
If you are like every parent and think you may be “overreacting”, check out this screening tool called the M-CHAT-R to determine if and when you should contact your child’s pediatrician to discuss autism symptoms. When you’re ready, follow these steps to obtain an official autism diagnosis and begin gathering resources for your child.
- Document your concerns– what are you noticing that is “different” from a child’s typical development? Does she not respond to her name, rarely make eye contact, or not display effort to babble or be social? These and other common symptoms should be jotted down so that you remember them should it become time to discuss symptoms further with a qualified professional.
- Reach out to your child’s pediatrician with your concerns if you believe they are substantial. The sooner children receive intervention and ABA services for autism symptoms, the better chance of social and academic success they will likely have in their future. Parents can request their child be screened for autism through their child’s primary care physician or state’s early intervention program if their child is under the age of 3.
- Begin looking for services you suspect your child will need. Federal law allows screening tools that identify symptoms of autism as adequate documentation for children to begin receiving services such as speech, language, occupational therapy, and/or physical therapy. Don’t wait! Some of these services in your community have long waiting lists, and you want to find a therapist in any given specialty that you feel comfortable seeing on a regular basis.
- Connect- Autism cases are on the rise and have been for several years now, meaning you are not alone in this new journey. You are encouraged to seek social connections with other parents who may be in similar situations as yours. Online or in-person groups seek to connect parents of autistic children so that they may gain support in terms of resources for their child and their own mental health.
- Plan- like many parents who have children with special needs, you’ll find that you need to stay ahead of the situation to avoid being overwhelmed by the healthcare system, insurance, and other headaches you’ll likely experience as your child’s parent. You’ll need to prepare to be the advocate your child needs in order to get them all the services they need and are entitled to under federal and state law. It’s recommended that parents look a year or two ahead, focusing efforts on forming 504 plans or IEPs, or locating a suitable school if public school won’t be appropriate.
It may seem like a lot, and not to discredit you rockstar parents, it is a physical and mental challenge raising a child with Autism. However, as the autism population has grown, so haven’t resources for children, teens, and even adults with autism, and their families.
Insurances are obligated to pay for evidence-based therapies such as Applied Behavior Analysis, speech, etc., so those are battles that are thankfully in the past. Know that some days will be harder than others, but an entire community and support system will accept you with open arms and help you navigate the new territory that is life with an autistic child.