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Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Guide for Parents

When a child is officially diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, there's a lot for their parents to process and accept. Every parent wants their child to be happy and well-adjusted, and for people who don't know much about autism, the diagnosis can feel traumatic. It can feel like the parents have to let go of their hopes and dreams for their child. That's not true. Although autism is a lifelong diagnosis (no child grows out of it), many treatments and therapies help children with autism thrive.

Seek Help

Parents who suspect their child might be on an autism spectrum disorder should seek assistance from their pediatrician immediately to start getting a diagnosis. It's possible to undergo some treatments and therapies before the diagnosis is officially received. Ask the pediatrician or the local school system about the information on early intervention, which provides therapy to babies and young children.

Parenting a Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Learning about autism will empower parents to be effective advocates for their child. It also will serve to help them manage their own anxieties.
  • Parents are the best experts on their child. They can advocate for their child using only their knowledge about what calms them and what makes them overstimulated to the point of melting down.
  • Accepting their child as the child is, quirks and all, is one of the most powerful gifts a parent can give their child.
  • It's important not to compare children.
  • Persevere! Focus less on the obstacles that can come with an autism diagnosis and enjoy watching the child grow and thrive.

photo of child with autism coloring with parent

Set Up Your Child for Success

  • All children thrive with structure. Children diagnosed with ASD really need that structure to succeed.
  • Work with the child's therapists and teachers to provide consistency. Consistency is the key for the child to apply what they've learned about socializing and anxiety soothing to different situations.
  • Stay on schedule. A routine helps provide the consistency that children with ASD need.
  • Positive reinforcement works well with children.
  • Give the child a private space at home they can retreat to when overstimulated.

Connect With Your Child in Nonverbal Ways

  • Some children with autism are nonverbal. However, that doesn't mean they aren't communicating. Parents can learn to decipher their child's body language and looks.
  • Parents can learn what facial expressions, movements, and noises mean when their child makes them.
  • Children always have a reason when they throw a tantrum. It's essential to figure out the root cause of the tantrum.

Create a Personalized Treatment Plan

  • There are many different types of treatment available for children with ASD.
  • Different children respond better to different types of treatment.
  • Knowing a child's strengths and weaknesses is essential when devising a treatment plan to meet their needs.
  • Family involvement is necessary for any treatment plan to be successful.

photo of a child with autism reading clock

What a Treatment Plan Should Include

  • All treatment plans should involve teaching concepts by breaking tasks down into a series of basic steps.
  • The treatment plan should reflect the child's interests.
  • The treatment plan should provide routine and consistency for the child.
  • Build positive reinforcement into the plan.
  • Parents must be involved in the treatment plan and be willing to follow it.
  • Engage the child's attention through structured activities.

Help and Support for the Entire Family

Raising children is tiring work. Children on the spectrum bring their own set of challenges. Parents must take care of themselves to take good care of their children. There is support available for families and children.

  • Support Groups: Find an ASD support group nearby. Parents will enjoy talking about their struggles with people who understand what they are coping with and share information about local resources.
  • Respite care is available for some children on the spectrum, allowing their parents to take a break.
  • Counseling: It's a good idea for the entire family to attend family counseling to help everyone cope with their new reality. Individual and marriage counseling is also an excellent idea for stressful periods.
  • Kids nine and under don't need a formal diagnosis to receive services through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Services include evaluations, psychological help, and a range of speech, physical, and occupational therapies. Use IDEA to acquire assisted technology devices for children who need them.
  • Early intervention is available for children under the age of three. Candidates for the program are assessed, and if they display any developmental issues begin receiving services. The providers and family create an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).
  • Special education services are available for ages three and up. These are typically offered through the local school system and are designed to address each child's needs.
  • Once children begin school, parents and other stakeholders will devise an IEP or Individualized Educational Plan.

Additional Resources

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