As a parent whose child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, you may feel like your world has just turned upside down. You may feel confused, afraid, and unsure about what to do next. Most likely, the doctor that gave the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, sometimes shortened to “ASD,” recommended some therapies based on your child’s individual needs, which may have included occupational therapy, speech therapy or ABA behavioral therapy.
The good news is that you aren’t alone. Today, 1 in 44 children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and millions of children under 18 are living their lives with an autism diagnosis. There are many resources available to help you better understand autism and sift through the different options for therapy. In this article, we share the XX things you can do now to give your young child and family the best opportunity to thrive. It’s all based on our years of experience working with children and families just like yours.
- Start with the right perspective. Know there is hope. A diagnosis of autism does not change who your child is or what he or she can accomplish in life. It just means your child will take a different path, and you will need to adjust your parenting to help them get there. As you digest the news of the diagnosis, don’t forget the importance of your family unit. Increase communication with your spouse or partner about how your life may change and develop a plan on how you will adjust. Work to get on the same page as far as accepting the diagnosis and agreeing on the plan, as well as next steps. At Opya, we help hundreds of children and their families find ways to adjust and thrive.
- Do your research. Doing your research can also help you focus on what’s next. There are two kinds of research: understanding your child and understanding your therapy options.
- Understanding your child: A big step toward understanding what your child is going through and how to best interact with your child is to learn more. Start with where your child falls on the autism spectrum. Did the professional who diagnosed your child indicate your child is high functioning, low functioning or somewhere in between? This will be helpful as you learn more about how to best move forward with treatment options as well as how you can best communicate with your child.
- Understand your therapy options: As with other medical conditions, there are many perspectives on how to treat ASD. Part of your challenge will be to sort through various information sources to determine which are credible. Options may include treatments such as speech, occupational, and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapies. You can also learn more about and follow autism advocacy groups, subscribe to helpful newsletters, and follow credible and helpful social media accounts. Here are a few: Autism Speaks, Autism Society of America, National Autism Association.
- Become your child’s advocate. You may find yourself filling multiple roles for your child, including care coordinator, therapist, parent, teacher and more. But the most important role after loving parent will be that of your child’s advocate. Familiarize yourself with terms such as IEP (individualized education program), EI (early intervention), IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education). The sooner you understand your rights, the sooner you can become your child’s best advocate.
- Choose your path. There are different ways to handle your child’s care, and the best course may depend on where your child falls on the autism spectrum. Either way, professional therapy is essential. Some therapies focus on one challenge such as speech or motor skills, while others have a broader scope and are more intensive such as ABA behavioral therapy. For young children between 18 months and 6 years of age, ABA therapy has been shown in clinical studies to achieve the best results. Applied Behavior Analysis involves many techniques for understanding and changing behavior. ABA can be adapted to meet the needs of each unique child, can be provided in many different locations – at home, at school, and in the community – and teaches skills that are useful in everyday life. As you think about therapy options, you will also want to decide whether you want your young child’s therapy to be in the home setting versus in a clinic. At Opya, we believe that in the early childhood years before the child is school age, home is the optimal place for children to receive ABA therapy. Home is a child’s natural environment, which can feel safer and more comfortable for them. Read more about our guiding principles to therapy here.
- Take advantage of early intervention therapy. You may have heard the term “early intervention,“ which applies to therapy support for children from 18 months to 6 years old. Research has shown that early intervention optimizes a child’s overall development. Children who receive autism-specific care and support at an early and key developmental stage are much more likely to gain essential social skills and more favorable outcomes. Because children’s brains are more malleable as toddlers, the sooner you can begin therapy the sooner their brains can develop the essential skills they need to live their best life. At Opya, we hire and train experts in early intervention ABA therapy because we know it works. Early intervention therapy is also recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and 98% of medical professionals including pediatricians, child psychologists, child psychiatrists, and developmental specialists recommend early intervention therapy.
- Find the right therapy provider for your child and your family. Once you’ve decided to get therapy for your child, you need to select a provider. In addition to a list from your insurance company, you can ask your pediatrician or the professional who diagnosed your child for referrals. You can also get recommendations from parent support groups and community resources. Create a short list based on providers that practice in your area and accept your health insurance, as well as input from trusted sources. The best therapy providers understand the importance of caring for the unique needs of each family and go out of their way to ensure that they make working with them as easy as possible. For example, at Opya, we simplify communication between parents and therapists with our HIPAA-compliant Opya App, on which parents can change schedules, see progress reports, and communicate any behavioral changes to clinicians.
Finally, remember that your child is still the same child you know and love. Care for them, protect them and love them. Be patient and understanding. With the right support, resources and treatment, your child can have the fulfilling life you want for them. Know that Opya is here to support you. We provide autism therapy services for children under the age of six throughout California (see the list of our service areas below). All you need to do reach out to us through our quick and easy online schedule request form and someone will get back to you within 24 hours.
Opya Near You
Opya provides autism diagnosis and early intervention in-home autism therapy services across Northern California and the Central Valley. We also provides speech and occupational therapy services via telehealth as part of our comprehensive autism support program for young children diagnosed with autism.
- Sacramento County
- San Francisco Bay Area
- San Mateo County
- Alameda County
- Santa Clara County
- Solano County
- Contra Costa County
- Yolo County
- El Dorado County
- Placer County
- San Joaquin County
- Stanislaus County