What To Do After Your Child Is Diagnosed With Autism:
Several weeks ago Deborah Michael posted a blog about warning signs that parents should look out for regarding Autism Spectrum Disorders. That blog article got me thinking about the next steps and how to help prepare parents for those important decisions. The initial diagnosis is often heart wrecking for parents. Too many times I have seen parents develop a sense of hopelessness once the diagnosis is given. Autism is a spectrum disorder. There are children who are really low functioning and will require one-on-one assistance for the rest of their lives. Yet, at the same time, there are many children who are really high functioning and will be able to lead normal lives, get married, and live on their own. I was supposed to write a blog article on a checklist for parents as to what they should do once a diagnosis is given. After thinking about that, I came to the realization that doing so would be impossible and also act as a disservice towards parents.
Therapies Available For Children With ASD
There are many therapies available for children with a diagnosis along the Autism spectrum. Children with the diagnosis often require speech/language therapy to develop their pragmatic and social language skills. These children often benefit from participating in a social skills group in which they are forced to engage in social activities in a safe, non-judgmental environment. The children often have difficulties with fine motor functioning and sensory regulation and would benefit from working with an occupational therapist to develop those skills.
Additionally, the children often would benefit from participating in behavior therapy to focus on increasing positive, on-task behaviors while extinguishing negative behaviors. However, due to the fact that Autism is a spectrum set of disorders, one cannot say how many hours a week or even what specific therapies are warranted for any particular child. As a neuropsychologist, I would work with the individual providers to help develop any particular child’s treatment plan. So, the only checklist of services parents need to seek for their child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder is: work with the neuropsychologist who made the initial diagnosis to help develop a treatment plan including speech/language therapy, occupational therapy, behavior therapy, and social work.
What To Expect With Treatment:
Once the diagnosis is given, the work begins. Parents should work with treatment providers who they feel comfortable with. The treatment provider, for whatever discipline (occupational therapy, speech/language therapy, social work, behavior therapy), should have specific measurable goals the child is working on. Additionally, the providers should have frequent interactions with the parents to discuss how treatment is going as well as to ensure that the strategies the child is working on within the clinic setting are being applied within the home environment.