With currently 1 in 68 children in the United States being diagnosed with autism—a number that’s grown due to our better identification of symptoms—more and more families are learning how to best raise a child with autism. While there has been an increase in diagnoses, this has also been met with a greater understanding of how to best address the needs of a child with autism and what the best practices are that will help a child to overcome difficulties with communication, social interaction, and behavior so that they can grow into a well-rounded adult.
But the fact remains that when a parent learn of an autism diagnosis, it is guaranteed that their lifestyle will have to undergo massive changes to best facilitate the development of their child. No two cases of autism are the same and it affects “each person in different ways and can range from mild to severe,” according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
When you’re sitting in an office hearing the word “autism” for the first time, the immediate days that follow can be overwhelming, and it can be difficult to figure out what comes next. After all, there is no cure for autism, which can present more questions to answer at first. Here are practical and helpful ways parents can come to terms with the diagnosis and devise a plan of action.
First and foremost, many autism and medical groups advocate for early intervention and intensive therapy to help achieve maximum progress and recovery for a child with autism. They also advise gathering a team of doctors to assess the best treatment.
In addition, it’s crucial that a parent does not rely solely on the first diagnosis received as some children are diagnosed through the school system, and not a professional. As such, parents should make sure their child sees a developmental pediatrician or a neurologist with a specialty in autism to ensure that they embark on the best possible path of treatment.
Furthermore, it’s important that parents take time to understand and absorb the news about their child’s diagnosis before pursuing a path of treatment. While some parents do better by diving into research and looking for ways to help their child right away, many need to take the time to recalibrate their expectations about their child’s future and become comfortable with this new future presented by autism, which will ideally help them to make the best decisions in terms of treatment.
After a parent has taken the time to adapt psychologically to their new reality, they should begin doing research and find out who the top recommended autism specialists in their area are. Since the waiting lists for these specialists are often quite long, it’s crucial that a parent begin setting up appointments even during the adaptation period.
Once parents better understand the new reality of their situation, they can then start down the path of assembling a team of specialists, learning about their child’s rights, and even consider seeing a biomedical expert. But before delving headfirst into treatment and therapy, it’s these initial steps discussed above that are essential to moving forward in the best direction.