Autism spectrum disorders, more commonly referred to as just autism, is actually a range of neurodevelopment disorders that impairs normal brain function, affecting a person’s ability to communicate and interact within a social context. Symptoms vary widely in type as well as severity.
In most cases, autism is diagnosed before the age of three, but will persist throughout your child’s life.
The First Steps After Diagnosis
If your child has just been diagnosed with autism you might be frightened or upset. Or maybe you just don’t know what to expect. Raising a child with autism can be extremely challenging, but know that you’re not alone. There are steps you can take as a parent to make the journey a little more manageable and give your child every possible advantage at a happy life.
- Team up with trusted professionals. Work together with your doctor, a social worker, teachers, and therapists. You can request financial services and government programs through the aid of a case manager. Together, you should be able to come up with the best treatment options for your child.
- Spend time away. It may seem like all your energy is being devoted to caring for your autistic child. And if it feels that way to you, it probably feels like that to your spouse and other children, too. Make sure to take time for yourself and your other family members to ensure a happy, healthy home environment.
- Seek support with other families with autistic children. Just having someone who knows what you’re going through can be a major help. You can also share advice and stories that they can relate to.
- Read up on autism. Knowledge is power. Make sure you understand the truths — and myths — about autism as you begin this journey. New discoveries are always being made about autism, including new treatment options.
- Stay organized. Keep documentation about all your child’s visits and evaluations in one organized folder. Make sure to date everything and record any useful data. This will help you track progress and work toward the best treatment for your child.
Keep in mind that there is no cure but early detection and treatment can make a big difference in the lives of children with autism spectrum disorders. While some children with mild autism symptoms may go on to lead independent lives, others will need assistance to get through daily routines for the rest of their lives. It’s important to take an individualized approach to your child’s autism and focus on treatment one day at a time.
Resources for Parents and Children
Not sure where to start looking for support and answers? Try these organizations that are dedicated to advancing social awareness, researching treatment options, offering support, and much more.
- Autism Speaks is a foundation dedicated to funding research into the causes, treatments, and a cure for autism. The website also contains a wealth of information for family members and a list of fundraising events across the country.
- Older children and adults with autism may benefit from membership in Autism Network International, a self-help and advocacy group run by people with autism.
- The Autism National Committee is another advocacy group dedicated to “social justice for all citizens with autism” and hosts an annual conference on autism.
- You can access free weekly online seminars for parents of children with autism at the Autism Research Institute.
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