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The Ten Best Things You Can Do for Your Child with Autism

November 25, 2019

You have a family member who has been recently diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Now what?

  1. 1. Be early and active in seeking interventions.
    1. -Do not trust the wait and see approach. It is often hard to accept the diagnosis and it can be preferential to think that maybe the diagnosis is not fully substantiated at first.
    2. -But, even if the diagnosis is incorrect, the suspicion of sufficient criteria warrants a treatment and community plan that can be accessed for them.
    3. -Proactive intervention to address any concerns suggestive of ASD is highly unlikely to do any harm whether addressing speech delays, social skills, focal interests/behaviors, or other challenges.


  1. 2. It is a fallacy that if they did not qualify for school autistic impairment criteria that they do not have an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
    1. -And it is equally concerning to think that whatever the school does will be sufficient intervention to address their needs if they are 26 years of age or younger for primary school.
    2. -The school will focus on what is determined to be necessary to participate in and hopefully make gains in academics, not necessarily life.
    3. -You will need support from the community, family, and any place you can receive positive support.


  1. 3. Know you need to stay active in the community.
    1. -This is exceedingly difficult to manage as there will be sensory difficulties, avoidance, possible outbursts, embarrassment, etc. But, the longer you limit engagement in the world, the higher the probability of life long disability.


  1. 4. It is more than appropriate to have family, marital, and personal time away from the family with ASD or other children.
    1. -Start establishing family members, friends, respite or other babysitting or daycare options as soon as you know.
    2. -You will need time to relax, enjoy, revive, and be as “normal” as you would have functioned prior to the changing dynamics in life. Normalizing life can have broad potential for the family, couple and individual who has been diagnosed.


  1. 5. The expense of a service, program or intervention does not equate to a better program or service. But more importantly, a promise of a fast fix is undoubtedly false.
    1. -ASD is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that can and often will change in intensity and functional detriment over time.
    2. -Although early and active intervention is imperative, consistency wins the day.


  1. 6. If you have a child in school, you will need to be an ardent advocate and are likely to want to develop a good relationship with an advocacy group to support you in the IEP/504 processes.
    1. -Meetings will need to be more routinely reviewed and it can be challenging to balance academic vs. functional goals within the service plan.


  1. 7. Know your insurance plan(s) and be an advocate within your plan or agency to garner services.
    1. -You may require an autism rider.
    2. -You may need to have two benefit plans; one from your primary employer, the other from the market place, potentially also qualifying for a Medicaid plan or another option.
    3. -It may be hard, but ask family members to consider helping to support the costs of services.


  1. 8. Technology can be beneficial as a therapy aid, but cannot be permitted to be the direct or primary intervention.
    1. -Individuals on the spectrum have a high affinity for technology. This affinity can permit addiction, isolation, and/or the perception of a social or fantasy world through their life on media platforms.
    2. -Technology should not be used as a negative reinforcer to stop aggression or other unwanted behaviors.
    3. -Technology can be integrated into the day at various points, but like anything else is a part of entertainment after meeting other expectations in the day, as a structure reinforcer, or other scheduled time to have access to during those times.


  1. 9. Get involved in the Autism community to avoid isolation, to remain up to date on interventions, community resources, etc. this can include volunteering at school, being a part of a PTA, Autism Support group/organization, or other opportunities.


  1. 10. Plan not only for the next few months but years ahead.
          1. -You should have goals for where you are now, but be vigilant about where they are going and what you think is appropriate for the future.
          2. -Some agencies have substantive waiting lists for adult foster care.
          3. -Some have specific criteria for community living supports that can be targeted throughout intervention planning.
          4. -Costs and/or insurance criteria can be barriers– work toward budgeting or finding access to those criteria.


About the Author: Dr. Michael Wolff, Psy.D., ABPDN is a neuropsychologist and co-owner of BRAINS. Dr. Wolff specializes in autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, forensic evaluations, medically complex cases, and other neurodevelopmental and genetic disorders. He has awards for his contributions to the field of psychology and has a history of committee participation through the National Academy of Neuropsychology, the American Psychological Association as a graduate student, and is a Professional Advisor for the Epilepsy Association of Michigan and on the Board of Directors for the Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan.