Are you a parent of a child newly diagnosed with autism thinking “Where do I start?” You can start here.
We’ve spent nearly two decades supporting children with autism and their families, and based on our experience we created this resource list of what we feel are the best of the best.
First, remember that your child is still his (or her) beautiful, precious, wonderful self. He has strengths. Recognize and nurture them every day. It’s one of the most important things you can do to help him reach his potential.
Also, know that every child with autism is unique. In the name “Autism Spectrum Disorder,” the word spectrum is important; characteristics of autism vary in severity and from child to child.
Here is our step-by-step guide:
- Contact UM-NSU-CARD (or a similar organization in your state) for free guidance and support, including support groups, various programs, school consultations, and designing a plan of action for finding a best school placement, setting up therapies, and more.
- Register for Early Steps (if you’re not in Florida you may have a similar program in your state). Early Steps is a government-funded, free program for children ages 0-3 with developmental delays. It offers evaluations and services to help children reach developmental milestones. One of the benefits of registering your child with Early Steps is that when he turns 3, he will automatically have a transition meeting to determine eligibility for special education preschool services and programs through Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
If your child is ages 3-5, register directly with FDLRS (Florida Diagnostic and Learning Resource Center). They will evaluate your child and determine a possible need for special education services and programs through Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
- Join a parent support group. Parenting a child with autism can be an emotional roller coaster, but you’re not alone! The support, and even friendship, of other parents on this path is invaluable.
- Build a team of skilled, trusted therapists. Depending on your child’s needs, this may include a Speech-Language Pathologist, Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist, Applied Behavioral Analysis Therapist, or some combination of these. Be sure the therapists you choose maintain open communication with each other to ensure your child receives comprehensive, team-oriented care.
- Stay off Google! Turn to trusted sources of information (such as UM-NSU-CARD, Autism Speaks, or your team of therapists) with your questions, concerns, and worries.
- Search for a school that’s a good fit. Um-NSU-CARD (or a similar organization in your state) and your team of therapists can help with this.
- Join Parent to Parent, an organization with chapters throughout the U.S. Parent to Parent is an organization that provides guidance and support, most importantly around the laws that protect children with special needs in the school system. This resource will also help you prepare advocate for your child throughout childhood and into adulthood.
- Register with Autism Navigator (free for Florida residents), where you can find a unique collection of web-based tools and courses that uses extensive, backed-by-science video footage.
Lastly, know that you are your child’s number-one advocate! Stay connected with the organizations you join, and with your child’s team of therapists. Build a warm, positive relationship and open communication with his teacher(s). Ask questions. Push for additional services if you feel he has needs that aren’t being addressed.
For more information on autism, including family stories, search “autism” on our blog!