Monday, April 16, 2012

Finding Help After An Autism Spectrum Diagnosis

The latest estimate from the CDC is that 1 in 88 children will be diagnosed as on the autism spectrum.  Even in the midst of an epidemic, many parents struggle to find treatment options for their children.  When my son was given his diagnosis, I spent weeks digging through the Internet and making phone calls to find help.
Resources and treatment options vary by area, but here are some tips to get you started on your search:
  • Your pediatrician.  Surprisingly, many pediatricians are not aware of many treatment options available in your area.  Most children see specialists for their autism spectrum disorder, but your pediatrician may be able to recommend a few resources.
  • Your local children's hospital.  I found the local children's hospital to be my most valuable resource.  That is where I chose to have my son evaluated, because I knew they have a highly respected autism research department.  The hospital, however, is an hour away, so it is not practical for weekly therapy appointments.  Even if your children's hospital is far away from you, their neurodevelopmental pediatricians or autism specialists will be able to help you find therapy centers in your area.
  • Your school district.  The school district may be responsible for helping your child receive therapy services if the child is three years old or older.  Your school psychologist or principal will be able to tell you how to start the process to get your child evaluated for services through the school.
  • Early intervention.  Early intervention is available in all states, but it may be called something else in your state.  Early intervention will evaluate your child and help you find therapy centers and other resources.
  • Other parents.  The biggest resource I have found to help me find therapies and treatment has been other local moms.  I was about to find online groups specific to my state, and ask them for referrals and advice.
  • Child psychologist.  Some children with Autism Spectrum Disorder also have comorbid conditions, and a psychologist or psychiatrist can help with social skills training and cognitive behavioral therapy.