What Should I Do After My Child Receives a Diagnosis of Autism?
Once your child has been first diagnosed with autism, a thousand emotions may rush through your body: fear, confusion, anger, guilt, anxiety, relief, sadness. You are not alone, and it is common to feel this way. There are several questions, and so much information to examine. The important thing to remember is that, although there is no known cure for autism, there is hope. And even though getting a diagnosis of autism for your child can be a life-changing event for you and your entire family, there are ways to deal with it constructively, step by step.
Take some time after the diagnosis of autism
A diagnosis of autism doesn’t change who your child is or what he or she can accomplish. Research has grown exponentially over the past few decades, and there are always new treatment ideas and strategies being studied at colleges and research institutes across the country. Yet, the life of your family has just undergone a major change, and you as a parent need to know that it’s okay to feel the way you do. Take time to grieve. And although it is natural to be angry and confused, try not to blame yourself. It all will take time, patience, and understanding to work through your feelings.
Prepare for early intervention
The earlier the intervention after a diagnosis of autism, the more your child will benefit. If he or she has been formally evaluated, be sure to consider all the recommendations given. Contact your child’s school to inform them of the diagnosis and begin the process of creating an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP will mandate that the school provide certain services for your child depending on his or her needs, such as in-school speech and occupational therapy, or inclusion in a special education classroom.
When seeking services, be sure to consult with a professional first. Services that are often helpful for children with autism include, but are not limited to:
- Speech therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Behavioral therapy
- Physical therapy
- Developmental therapy
- Social skills groups
- Psychiatric services and medication management
Talk with other parents
It’s important for you to surround yourself with a support base of other parents who have children diagnosed with autism. They can be a touchstone for you, so you know you aren’t alone. Furthermore, they can offer you recommendations for everything from locating the best doctor or speech therapist in your area to understanding the processes for education, special programs, finances, and home life.
Create a plan
Getting a plan together is the best possible way to ease your stress and to get your child on the right path. Find out if you qualify for financial benefits such as an In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS). In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) is a California government program that provides economic support for in-home caretakers of children with developmental disabilities. Discovering the right resources will make you feel less vulnerable. California has early intervention services in addition to special education for children who are diagnosed with autism and ASD.
Become your child’s advocate
Don’t expect the educational systems to stand up for all of the services your child needs. Your child has certain rights, by law, and you need to know what they are so you can maximize your child’s outcomes. It is essential to have professionals on your side after a diagnosis of autism who have extensive knowledge in public policy issues affecting people with autism and related disorders, including state and federal programs such as IEP (individualized education program), LRE (least restrictive environment), EI (early intervention), IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), and FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education). Protecting your child’s human and civil rights will go a long way in getting him or her the help your family needs to thrive.
If you feel overwhelmed and you need help, please contact us.
American Disability Association is dedicated to the wellbeing and protection of children with disabilities and actively provides support to enhance their quality of life. Whether you are dealing with federal or state benefits or struggling with a school district to get proper education for your child, we have the resources to help you. Many individuals and families managing a disability are not aware of the wide array of services available to them, or they do not know how to apply for these benefits in a way that is likely to succeed.
Contact us for help. Dial (888) 323-2133 or email us at [email protected]