Has Your Child Just Been Diagnosed With Autism?
Hearing the words “Your child has autism” is devastating. Even for those parents who suspected that something was “not right” with their child, getting that diagnosis is hard. But we are here to tell you that there is hope. Our children do get better.
What do I do?
No matter what your child’s age is at the time of diagnosis, the first thing you should do is research therapies. There are many different options for therapy today versus what was available even ten years ago. Research is being done constantly on how the autistic brain operates, which drives new methodologies. The most researched type of therapy is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). The core focus of any ABA program is a highly structured approach where negative behaviors are discouraged and skills are attained using “reinforcers” as motivation to acquire the new skill. ABA is a very objective therapy with extensive record keeping to track the child’s progress. A typical ABA program is lead by behaviorists trained in behavior modification working 35-40 hours per week with the child.
Other styles of therapy build upon the child’s natural environment as a means to help them build or regain areas of development which they have veered from.
Floortime, developed by Dr. Stanley Greenspan and Dr. Serena Weider, the P.L.A.Y. Project, developed by Dr. Richard Solomon, R.D.I. developed by Dr. Steven Gutstein and Son-Rise, developed by Barry and Samahria Kaufman, are the more widely known therapies that focus on helping the child progress through developmental milestones using the child’s motivating interests. These therapies require heavy involvement from the parents since it is the parent(s) who is with the child most often. Floortime, P.L.A.Y. Project, R.D.I. and Son-Rise guiding principles are to a develop warm and intimate relationship with the child to help them learn how to communicate.
The next step is to look at your child’s physical health.
By looking at your child’s physical health and correcting any imbalances, this will help their brain development as well. More and more research is being done on the biochemistry of autism. Clinical studies show that anywhere from 30% to 70% of children with autism have food allergies, immune system dysregulation and chronic constipation/diarrhea. Any of these imbalances can result in negative “behaviors” such as visual stimming, hyperactivity and hand flapping, to name a few. By correcting biochemical imbalances in the body, parents and clinicians report that some, if not all, of these behaviors are greatly reduced or even eliminated. Parents and therapists have noted that when the underlying medical issues are under control, the child is more available for learning and is able to make rapid progress with therapy.
Network with other parents.
Other parents are a goldmine of information, support and hope. By networking with parents in your area you can learn what worked for them and what didn’t. Who the good therapists are and which ones to stay away from. Get strategies for getting Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy covered by insurance. Most importantly, other parents understand EXACTLY what you are going through and living with on day-to-day basis. You’ll find that not having to hear “you’re spoiling him” or “he just needs a good spanking” is priceless when your child is having a sensory overload which results in a complete meltdown. Oh yes, we’ve been there.
It’s OK to grieve.
The emotions you run through when you find out your child has autism are very real. Recognize that they are there, get help from a professional if necessary and realize because the life you had envisioned isn’t happening, doesn’t mean you and your family can’t have a good life. Many parents have said that some of their best friends are people whose children are affected as well. You’ll meet some of the most compassionate, intelligent and empowering people in other parents, teachers, and therapists.
Have faith that your child will get better.