When your child receives a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), all sorts of emotions come into play. There's fear, anger, worry, and sometimes a huge sense of relief that you’ve finally gotten confirmation that what you’ve been concerned about actually has a name. There are steps you can take to ensure that your child gets the attention they need. We're here to help.
It’s normal to feel so many different emotions, and sometimes they all come at you at once! Looking at raising a child with ASD as a marathon instead of a sprint definitely helps, but at the same time, you don’t want to delay some of the research based interventions that have been validated over the last 30 years.
Certainly, the following list is not a standard for everyone, because everyone is different, but it will help you get started. ASF is here to offer you guidance and support. We're happy to point you in the right direction and help you find the resources and information you need.
Join a support group. The best resource as you begin this journey is typically
another parent who has been where you are today. ASF has 2 online support groups. https://www.autismfl.org/support-group
For in person groups check with local hospitals, neurologists, CARD Centers
and schools to find one close to home.
Knowing and understanding your rights and how to advocate will be worth gold moving forward.
If your child is under age three
Contact Early Steps http://www.cms-kids.com/families/early_steps/early_steps.html
If your child is age three or above
Contact the FDLRS - Florida Diagnostic and Learning Resources System http://www.fdlrs.org for an evaluation and the beginning of early intervention services. ASAP. Don't delay.
Therapies could include speech/language, occupational and physical therapy, as well as ABA applied behavior analysis with a heavy emphasis on positive behavior supports.
Apply for the Medicaid Waiver http://apd.myflorida.com/customers/application/
Waiver services help individuals with developmental disabilities participate fully in their communities through work as well as educational, recreational and social activities.
Yes, there is a very lengthy waitlist, but if you don’t get on the waitlist, you’ll never receive services under the Waiver.
Consider the overall health of your child and possible dietary adjustments.
For some kids, gastrointestinal issues are present from early childhood. This could include the presence of loose bowel movements, constipation, acid reflux, etc.
There are many children and adults who seem to respond well to a gluten free diet. more info: https://www.autism.org
When you play with your child be extra animated to make it fun. Help them see how rewarding interacting with you and his or her siblings can be. Try to make yourself more interesting than the iPad, YouTube, or cartoons.
When they see that interacting with others is reinforcing, they are more likely to become more socially motivated, which also helps build communication skills.
Incorporate SIBLINGS into the mix. Siblings are often the most amazing interventionists on the planet! BUT, don’t forget to make Mommy and Daddy time where they get you all to themselves, at least for short but steady increments of time.
Diagnosis is hard on parents, but it’s hard on siblings too. It’s important to remember that they need your love, guidance and support too.
Talk to professionals about establishing a system of positive behavior supports.
They’re not only helpful to kids who have long tantrums but also for kids who need to learn how to walk from the front door to the car without running into the street.
These same professionals can help you create picture schedules, reward charts, social stories and communication systems that have positive impacts on challenging behaviors.
Place your child in school or home program that focuses on child development. From the age of three there are special education opportunities in the state of Florida. This doesn’t mean your child needs to be placed in a separate classroom only for kids with disabilities unless this is what you and the IEP team decide. It could mean that he or she is included in a regular education classroom with whatever supports they need.
Take care of YOURSELF!
Your family needs you. If you used to go to the gym, go back. Take daily walks by yourself, even if it’s for fifteen minutes. Meet with the moms from your support group, or friends you haven’t seen in a while for coffee and a donut. Seek counseling that can act as a sounding board for some of the stressors you may be feeling.
And don’t forget to breathe.
Keep a journal.
There will be days when you’ll feel like things aren’t changing, that progress is hiding somewhere.
But, if you write things down not only can it be therapeutic but you can pull out that journal down the road, look back and see just how far you’ve all come!