Important steps to take if you see symptoms of Autism
You know your child best. If they’re not reaching childhood milestones for their age and you suspect they may have autism, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed and unsure of what steps to take next. All children develop at their own pace. Slight deviations from the expected childhood development milestones are not necessarily a cause for concern.
However, a child with autism may be slow to babble and acquire language skills or can have problems with eye contact or responding to their name. Remember, every child is unique, and a diagnosis of autism is not a one-size-fits-all. Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a complex developmental disorder that can present a range of symptoms and challenges, but with early intervention and the right support, children with autism can thrive and reach their full meaningful potential.
Here are the 5 steps to take if you suspect your child has autism.
Step 1: Talk to your child’s pediatrician or primary care provider.
Don’t wait. Share your child’s developmental concerns with your pediatrician or primary care provider sooner rather than later. Acting early can make a real difference for your child and your entire family! Early intervention is crucial for children with autism, as it can improve favorable outcomes and increase the likelihood of long-term success. Pediatricians have a thorough understanding of developmental milestones, but it’s important to ensure your child receives a developmental screening and an autism screening at 18 months, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Diagnosing and treating autism as early as possible can make a significant positive impact on a child’s development.
Step 2: Get an evaluation from a qualified professional.
If your child shows , your pediatrician should refer you to an autism expert. A qualified professional, such as an ABA therapist, child psychologist, or developmental pediatrician, can conduct a comprehensive evaluation to determine if your child has autism. This can include observations of your child’s behavior, interviews with you and your child, and standardized assessments.
Prior to the evaluation, write down your concerns and observations of your child’s developmental issues. It can be extremely helpful to have a comprehensive list and be able to easily share these details with the professional conducting the evaluation. For instance, if your child refuses eye contact or is behind on language and/or communication milestones, you should tell the evaluator if your child was progressing, but then begun experiencing regression with these milestones.
Step 3: Find quality ABA treatment.
If your child is diagnosed with autism, it’s important to find an ABA therapy provider who has achieved accreditation as a Behavioral Health Center of Excellence® (BHCOE), like The Behavior Exchange. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is the gold standard for treatment of children with autism. Work closely with your ABA therapist to determine the best course of treatment for your child’s unique needs and create an individualized plan for treatment and early therapy. Studies have shown that the earlier children with autism begin receiving therapy, the better chance they have of gaining and retaining life-long skills, which can lead to a better overall quality of life.
An autism diagnosis for school-aged children can make navigating social and academic spheres even more complex. The good news is that ABA therapy has been proven to foster basic skills, such as making eye contact, expressing needs and wants, and more complicated tasks, such as reading and fostering friendships. While some ABA therapy sessions involve intensive one-on-one settings with a behavior therapist, group sessions with peers are also a valuable way for children to learn important social skills and to learn in a format that is similar to school.
Step 4: Seek out support and resources.
Finding support and resources can be invaluable in navigating a diagnosis of autism. There are many organizations and advocacy groups, such as Autism Speaks, Autism Society, and National Autism Association, that offers information and support to individuals and families affected by autism. Look for local groups to connect with in your area or even online. The Behavior Exchange offers Parent Training which is a crucial part of ensuring your child’s consistent success and connects you with other families who have been through similar experiences.
The ultimate goal of ABA parent training is to empower you with practical techniques that can make a difference in your child’s life and in your family’s overall well-being. As a result, you can feel confident that every interaction you have with your child is therapeutic and helps them reach their full potential. It’s also important to remember that you’re not alone, and there are many people and resources available to help support you and your family.
Step 5: Be your child’s advocate.
Parenting a child with autism can be a challenging and rewarding experience. Every child is unique and requires individualized support, but there are strategies, like ABA therapy, that can help parents and caregivers navigate this journey. Learning as much as you can about autism, especially educating yourself on the , can help you better understand your child’s strengths and challenges and can also help you advocate for your child.
There are many educational resources available for your family that can help you learn more about autism, like Autism Speaks’ resource guide. It’s important to remember that every child with autism is unique. Celebrating your child’s unique qualities can help them develop a positive self-image and sense of self-worth.
If you take away one thing from this article, the most important is to act now rather than later. Waiting to see if your child “grows out of it” can deprive you and your child of precious time that can make all the difference. With early intervention and support, children with autism can thrive and reach their full potential. A brighter future is possible!