I Think My Child is Autistic, What Do I Do?

Discovering that your child may be on the autism spectrum can bring a mix of emotions – from concern to confusion about the next steps. As a parent, your natural instinct is to seek the best support and resources for your child’s growth and development.

Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. It’s called a “spectrum” because there’s a wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms individuals experience. ASD occurs in all ethnic, racial, and economic groups. Although ASD can be diagnosed at any age, symptoms generally appear in the first two years of life.

Recognizing the Signs

Early recognition of autism is crucial for timely intervention. Some common signs include:
  • Delayed speech and language skills.
  • Avoidance of eye contact.
  • Limited interest in social interactions.
  • Repetitive behaviors (e.g., flapping, rocking, spinning).
  • Unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel.
If you observe these signs in your child, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional who specializes in developmental disorders.

Seeking a Professional Diagnosis

An accurate diagnosis is the gateway to understanding your child’s unique needs and accessing appropriate services. This typically involves a team of specialists, including developmental pediatricians, child psychologists, and neurologists. They will conduct a series of evaluations to assess your child’s developmental level, including speech, language, and behavioral assessments.

Exploring Speech and Occupational Therapy

Once diagnosed, or even while you’re in the process of getting a diagnosis, seeking support services like speech therapy and occupational therapy can be highly beneficial.

  • Speech Therapy: For children on the spectrum, speech therapy often becomes a cornerstone of their development. Speech-language pathologists can help improve communication skills, allowing children to express their needs, share their feelings, and interact with others more effectively.
  • Occupational Therapy: Occupational therapists assist in developing the skills necessary for performing everyday activities. They work on sensory integration, coordination, motor skills, and self-care skills, ensuring your child can navigate daily life with greater ease.

Embracing a Supportive Environment

Creating a supportive environment at home is crucial. This includes consistent routines, clear communication, and opportunities for social interaction and sensory-friendly activities. As a parent, your involvement, patience, and understanding play a significant role in your child’s progress.

Staying Informed and Advocating

Stay informed about ASD and the latest therapies and interventions. Joining support groups can also provide a platform for sharing experiences and resources. As your child’s biggest advocate, your active involvement in their development and therapies will be pivotal.