What to Do After Your Child’s Autism DiagnosisA caregivers’ guide to help set your child and family up for success

When you first receive your child’s autism diagnosis, you may feel a range of emotions and be unsure of how to best support your child. But by learning more about autism and proven treatments, you’ll be able to choose the path that best fits your child and family’s unique needs.  

Here are 10 steps you can take to help set your child and family up for success: 

  1. Learn what autism is and is not – There is a lot of confusion and misinformation on developmental delays and disorders, such as autism, which can spread amongst concerned parents. That’s why it’s helpful to talk with your child’s doctor. They can give you a clearer understanding of what autism is and dispel any myths you might have heard. 
  1. Understand what the diagnosis means for your child – Ask for details about your child’s autism, why the diagnosis was given and the level of support that’s needed. Also, ask if there are other conditions that could impact their physical, emotional or behavioral health alongside their autism. 
  1. Embrace who your child is– The autism spectrum is broad and each individual’s journey is unique. Think of your child’s diagnosis as a framework for understanding their unique strengths and needs rather than a blueprint for who they will become. 
  1. Look at multiple treatment options –When it comes to care, there is no one-size fits all. There are proven treatments that not only benefit the child but focus also on the parents while supporting all members of the family. Look for a treatment model that provides the highest quality of person-centered care that is tailored to drive the best outcomes for each unique individual and their family. 
  1. Come up with your list of priorities – Focus on the treatment areas you think are most important to your family and will increase your child’s self-determination – which is their ability to make choices – set goals and know when to ask for help. Because treatment for your child requires you to be a part of the program, as well, be realistic about the amount of time and energy you are able to dedicate to it. Better yet ask about strategies you can use as you are parenting. For example, if your child is having difficulties with transitions from one activity to another, ask about what you can do to develop a routine or how to give a warning that a transition is coming up.  
  1. Consider parent-mediated applied behavior analysis (ABA) – If you are considering ABA, give thougt to parent-mediated ABA. This direct treatment option puts you in the driver’s seat of your child’s care. With the support of a Qualified Autism Service Provider, you’ll get the training and tools needed to support your child leveraging ABA treatment strategies and learn how to apply these skills at the appropriate time and place, integrating these critical approaches into everyday life. 
  1. Be wary of high practitioner-led ABA hours – In this approach, a paraprofessional works directly with your child on their treatment goals, under the supervision of a licensed or credentialed practitioner. While this option works well for some, research has shown high practitioner-led treatment hours do not necessarily lead to better outcomes and often add stress on the child and family.  
  1. Alternatives to ABA – ABA is not the best fit for all families and children. There are alternatives to ABA. Speech and occupational therapy are good options to add to ABA or as stand-alone therapies. Other more play-based therapies are also good alternatives.   
  1. Take advantage of free pre-school – After your child’s formal diagnosis, they become eligible for additional support through your school district. Getting your child started in pre-school as early as age three, can help strengthen skills they need to thrive. 
  1. Focus on family wellbeing – Having a child with autism can be stressful for families. Be honest with yourself and your family about how you are feeling, support one another and adopt a positive outlook. If you need help communicating your struggles or learning how your family can better support each other during challenging times, seek out the assistance of a marriage and family therapist. 
  1. Take care of yourself – Find time to take care of your own needs along with those of your child and family. Make a plan for how you can take breaks to rest and recharge when needed. And offer yourself the same grace and forgiveness you would offer a friend. 

Lastly, remember that everyone deserves to be understood, respected and celebrated. Through patience and the proper supports, your child can thrive. It all starts with understanding your child and getting the needed supports for them and for your family.