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Monday, February 25, 2008

What To Do After An Autism Diagnosis For Your Child ?

If you’re child has received an autism diagnosis, you may feel like all of the hopes and dreams you had for your child’s future have ended.

These feelings of guilt, grief and fear are normal for parents when they first discover their child is autistic.

However, you need to know that you’re not alone and there is help out there for both you and your child.

To help you cope with the autism diagnosis, the following are 10 guidelines for you to take into consideration:

1. Don’t Panic – Feeling overwhelmed is natural at first, but this drowning feeling will pass.

You need to remember autism - although a challenging condition - is not a life threatening illness.

Autism isn’t the end of the world; take the time to calm down and rationally think things through.

2. Your child is still the same – An autism diagnosis doesn’t mean your child is any different than he/she was prior to your knowledge of his/her condition.

A diagnosis has only provided you with the chance to better understand your child, so you can provide him/her with the support that will allow him/her to have the best life.

The love you have for your child and all the good you see in him or her will remain their forever. No diagnosis can change that.

3. Educate yourself
– Find out everything there is to know about autism.

You can find information in books and articles in your local library, bookstore and online. The internet is a fantastic resource for autism.

4. Ask questions – don’t forget to address any questions or concerns you may have with your doctor/ specialist/ child psychologist.

5. Find out what your child needs – Depending on the type of autism diagnosis your child receives he/she may have many or few special needs.

Carefully analyze your child’s behaviors and discuss them with your doctor to determine the best course of action for treating the issue.
For instance, does your child have sensory problems? Speech delays? Social deficits? Etc.

6. Find out what is available – Just because you discover what your child needs, doesn’t mean you’ll have immediate access to the therapies required, or even know how to work them into your lifestyle if they are available.

Once you have everything sorted out, you can begin to set up a program that can meet your needs.

7. Stick to basic therapies – When you research therapies, you will discover that there are numerous treatments.

Instead of becoming overwhelmed, focus on the basic therapies that are readily available, appropriate to your child, and funded.

The basics usually include ABA, speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.

8. Introduce treatment slowly – Remember, most therapies are a slow process that take weeks or even months until you begin to see a difference in your child.

Therefore, try not to introduce too many therapies after the autism diagnosis.

When you take it slow you are able to observe how your child responds to each, and determine what is successful and what isn’t.

For example, if your child has behavioural issues such as tantrums and speech delay, start with behavioural therapy (ABA). ABA addresses a lot of the behavioural issues. If your child is prone to tantrums you need to address this problem first. Once you see an improvement in behaviour (ie reduction in tantrums), then you will be able to start other therapies such as speech therapy. Without behaviour intervention, a speech therapist may not be able to work with your child since they are not trained to handle behavioural issues.

9. Relax – The wellbeing of your child is important, but so is yours and the rest of your family.

It’s imperative that you find ways to relieve your stress, take breaks, and enjoy your own life.
You will be able to better care for your autistic child when you are well rested.

10. You’re not alone – There are many autism support groups you can join both locally and online after receiving an autism diagnosis.

Talking to other parents with autistic children, and hearing and sharing your experiences can be very helpful and therapeutic to you and your child.


by Rachel Evans
Author of e-book: The Essential Guide To Autism