Helping an Autistic Child (page 3)
There are many things parents can do to help autistic children overcome their challenges and get the most of life. From learning all you can about the disorder to getting your child into therapy right away, you can make a big difference.
This article will teach you where to find government and educational services, how to choose effective treatments for your child, and where to look for support. Plus, you’ll also find parenting tips to help make daily home life with an autistic kid easier.
Helping an autistic child
If you've recently learned that your child has an autism spectrum disorder, you're probably wondering and worrying about what comes next. No parent is ever prepared to hear that a child is anything other than happy and healthy, and a diagnosis of autism can be particularly frightening. You may be unsure about how to best help your child. You may be confused by conflicting treatment advice. Or you may have been told that autism is an incurable, lifelong condition, leaving you concerned that nothing you do will make a difference.
While it is true that autism is not something a person simply "grows out of," there are many treatments that can help children learn new skills and overcome a wide variety of developmental challenges. From free government services to in-home behavioral therapy and school-based programs, assistance is available to meet your child's special needs. With the right treatment plan, and a lot of love and support, your child can learn, grow, and thrive.
As the parent of a child with autism or related developmental delays, the best thing you can do is to get your kid in treatment right away. Don't wait to see if your child will catch up later or outgrow the problem. Don't even wait for an official diagnosis. The earlier children with autism spectrum disorders get help, the greater their chance of treatment success. Early intervention is the most effective way to speed up your child's development and reduce the symptoms of autism.
TIPS FOR PARENTS: Helping a Child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
Don’t wait to seek treatment.
Early intervention is the most important key to autism treatment success. Seek help as soon as you suspect a problem in your child. Don’t wait for a diagnosis. You don’t need one to start treating your child’s symptoms.
Learn about autism.
The more you know about autism spectrum disorders, the better equipped you’ll be to make informed decisions for your child. Educate yourself about the treatment options, ask questions, and participate in all treatment decisions.
Become an expert on your child.
Figure out what triggers your kid’s “bad” or disruptive behaviors and what elicits a positive response. What does your autistic child find stressful? Calming? Uncomfortable? Enjoyable? If you understand what affects your child, you’ll be better at troubleshooting problems and preventing situations that cause difficulties.
Accept and love your child for who he or she is.
Rather than focusing on how your autistic child is different from other children and what he or she is “missing,” focus on what makes your child happy. Enjoy your kid’s special quirks, celebrate small successes, and stop comparing your child to others—developmentally-challenged or not.
Be patient and optimistic.
It’s impossible to predict the course of an autism spectrum disorder. Don’t jump to conclusions about what life is going to be like for your child. Like everyone else, people with autism have an entire lifetime to grow and develop their abilities.
With so many different autism treatments available, and it can be tough to figure out which approach is right for your child. Making things more complicated, you may hear different or even conflicting recommendations. When deciding on an autism treatment plan for your child, keep in mind that there is no single treatment that will work for everyone. Each person on the autism spectrum is unique, with different strengths and weaknesses.
Your child’s treatment should be tailored according to his or her individual needs. You know your child best, so it’s up to you to make sure those needs are being met. You can do that by taking the following important steps:
- Put together a trusted autism treatment team. As a parent, you have the ultimate say when it comes to your child’s treatment. However, treatment planning is a lot easier if you have trusted professionals you can turn to for advice. Autistic children often have a range of treatment needs best served by a team of specialists. In addition to a pediatrician, your child may benefit from the expertise of other doctors, therapists, and teachers.
- Develop a personalized treatment plan for your child. Build on what you know about your child’s unique needs and abilities, and work with your treatment team to build a plan that targets your son’s or daughter’s weakest areas while taking advantage of his or her strengths. Each team member can provide a unique perspective on autism, helping you come up with a comprehensive, well-rounded therapeutic approach.
As you design your child’s autism treatment plan, ask yourself the following questions:
- What are my child’s strengths?
- What are my child’s weaknesses?
- What behaviors are causing the most problems?
- What important skills is my child lacking?
- How does my child learn best (through seeing, listening, or doing)?
- What does my child enjoy and how can those activities be used in treatment?
When looking into a specific treatment provider or an alternative therapy, it’s also smart to do your research. Learn what evidence there is for the therapy’s effectiveness, how safe it is, who will be working with your child, and how progress will be measured.
A Good Treatment Program for Autism Will:
- Build on your child's interests.
- Offer a predictable schedule.
- Teach tasks as a series of simple steps.
- Actively engage your child's attention in highly structured activities.
- Provide regular reinforcement of behavior.
- Involve the parents.
DO YOUR RESEARCH!
Questions to Ask an Autism Treatment Provider
The National Institute of Mental Health suggests a list of questions parents can ask when planning treatment for an autistic child:
How successful has the program been for other children?
How many children have gone on to placement in a regular school and how have they performed?
Do staff members have training and experience in working with children and adolescents with autism?
How are activities planned and organized?
Are there predictable daily schedules and routines?
How much individual attention will my child receive?
How is progress measured? Will my child's behavior be closely observed and recorded?
Will my child be given tasks and rewards that are personally motivating?
Is the environment designed to minimize distractions?
Will the program prepare me to continue the therapy at home?
- What is the cost, time commitment, and location of the program?
Finally, keep in mind that no matter what autism treatment plan is chosen, parental involvement is vital to success. You can help your child get the most out of treatment by working hand-in-hand with the autism treatment team and following through with the therapy at home.
Free U.S. government services
Under the U.S. federal law known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), children with disabilities—including those with autism spectrum disorders—are eligible for a range of free or low-cost services. Under this provision, children in need and their families may receive medical evaluations, psychological services, speech therapy, physical therapy, parent counseling and training, assisted technology devices, and other specialized services.
Children under the age of 10 do not need an autism diagnosis to receive free services under IDEA. If they are experiencing a developmental delay (including delays in communication or social development), they are automatically eligible for early intervention and special education services.
Reprinted with the permission of Helpguide. © 2001-2008. All rights reserved.
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