Danielle Ager, Psy.D.
Just this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new numbers illustrating the rapidly increasing incidences of autism spectrum disorder – and they aren’t encouraging. In New Jersey, specifically, one in 41 children will be diagnosed with the developmental disability this year – a whopping 12 percent climb in just two years.
With so much information to digest at once, determining a path forward can feel overwhelming. If you or someone you know has a young child with autism, remember these tips before making a plan:
Give yourself and your loved ones time to adjust
Receiving an autism diagnosis can be overwhelming. Parents are encouraged to focus on evidence-based interventions and utilize a team approach.
Familiarize yourself with your child’s rights in your home state
Under federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) entitles your child to a free and appropriate public education. Work to build a productive relationship with your school district and focus on the individual needs of your child.
Identify and assemble a team of trusted specialists
Developmental Pediatricians, Behavior Analysts, Neurologists and Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapists, among others, can work together to create a seamless continuum of care for your child’s specific needs.
Research and obtain Early Intervention services
Check with your state and home school district regarding available funding and referrals to Early Intervention programs locally. Before age three, connect with Early Intervention programs through your state. After age three, access preschool special education services through your school district.
Learn and utilize your child’s therapeutic tools and tactics
Utilize your child’s therapists – Physical, Occupational and Speech as well as his Behavior Analyst – as consultants and practice new strategies with your child. Understand which therapies best help your child and incorporate them into your home routine to maintain consistency at home, in the classroom and in the community.
Keep Accurate Records
Your child will work with many physicians, teachers, therapists and caregivers throughout his or her life. Start organizing your child’s records and keep track of progress on paper to easily transfer and share information among members of his care team. Establish a system that works for you because you will need paper documents to coordinate care.
Create a Strong Support System
Navigating autism services will be a lifelong journey for you and your family. Partner with community organizations, local resources and fellow parents. No one can run on empty, so rely on friends, family and respite services when you need a break, or look into your state’s available respite services.