What to do after your child's autism diagnosis.
Getting a diagnosis of any kind is hard for everyone.Getting an autism diagnosis is hard as it not only affects the child but the whole family.
I am going to outline a few things you can do after receiving an autism diagnosis for your child.
Accepting the diagnosis-This is the most important thing you can do as a parent is to accept the diagnosis. We need to understand getting a diagnosis is not a bad thing as it allows your child to get access to the right supports and services to allow them to be the best they can be. Some parents are in denial and find it harder to accept the diagnosis. It is normal to feel sad, upset and ponder over why your child had to get the diagnosis. I was sad too but it is important the quicker we can accept the diagnosis we can start helping our child by finding the right supports and services to help them.
Starting therapy with evidence-based interventions-There are several interventions available to treat autism. Some are evidence-based and many are not. We need to look for evidence-based interventions to help our children.
Personally, for our family, we found ABA as the best evidence-based intervention for our son. Along with it we also did speech therapy and occupational therapy for our son.
ABA stands for Applied Behaviour Analysis. It is the science of behaviour. It is used not only for children with autism but other disabilities as well.
It is a data-based intervention. it helps the children to improve their communication skills, life skills, social skills, self-care skills, play and leisure skills, motor skills, academic skills .it also helps them with challenging behaviours.
ABA breaks down any skill into smaller parts and then each step is taught while data is taken at every step. Occupational therapy helps to develop your child's fine motor skills, gross motor skills, handwriting skills and daily living skills.
Be an involved parent- Parents we spend maximum time with our children. We know them the best. We are experts on our children. We know the strengths weaknesses motivators and triggers.
Therapists spent maybe an hour or two with our kids a week so it is up to us as parents to implement strategies given to us by different therapists.
We must be involved in our children’s therapies, learn as much as possible and implement strategies consistent with our children with autism.
It is better to practice skills for 5 to 10 minutes every day rather than doing a session once a week.
Go to school if you can. If that’s not possible attend parent training, webinars, read books, listen to podcasts, read blogs and talk to other parents.
Try to be the captain of the ship as therapists will come and go but you will be the one constant so learn everything you can to help your child.
Set up a communication system for your child- Most kids with autism and nonverbal or non-speaking. This causes a lot of anxiety and frustration. We have to set up a communication system for your child. This can also lead to challenging behaviour.
It can be low-tech as PECS or high tech such as AAC devices. This will help your child in a big way by reducing their anxiety and frustration. Get in touch with the speech-language pathologist who is experienced with working with children with autism who can help you to set up the right communication system for your child.
Use visuals around the house -Visual processing is a strength for our children. They struggle with expressive language and following directions.
Visual schedules help your child to know the order of the activities during the day as our kids love predictability. Children with autism love structure and routine.
Visuals help the children understand the information around us. We live in a visually rich world.
Believe in your child- This is the most important one. We must believe in our children as our children are capable of learning and making progress. This is especially important because if you don’t believe in your child no one else will. We must always presume competence around children with autism.
Join parent support groups-Try to meet other parents going to the same thing as you. These groups can help you vent out and also exchange tips with other parents if you need help with something.
Take care of yourself-Parenting a child with autism can be very isolating and overwhelming. self-care is very important as you cannot pour from an empty cup. try to do some self-care activity for yourself every day. Listen to my podcast episode 20 where I talk about Self care tips for parents of children with autism in detail.
Try to build a team for your child with autism -you must build a team for your child with autism. you don't need to do it alone. Build a team of speech therapists, occupational therapists, aba therapists, teachers with a common goal of helping the child.
Early Intervention- Once you get an autism diagnosis it is important to provide the child with early intervention to improve their language skills, communication skills, social skills and teach them new skills. Listen to my podcast episode 4 wherein I talk about Early Intervention in great detail.
Creating consistency- Creating consistency is very important. Children with autism love structure and routine. Create a daily routine that will help them feel safe and reduce anxiety. try to reduce the surprises.
I have been in your shoes a decade ago. I hope these strategies can help you with steps you can take after your child's autism diagnosis.