By: Richard Chamberlin, LMFT
Discovering that your child has autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be upsetting for parents. It can not only stress you but also the child’s siblings. That is why it’s important to arm yourself with as much information as possible in order to be able to manage the stresses on your family and on your child. Here are a few facts for you to consider about ASD:
- Many parents react with anxiety and fear to the news their child has ASD. That is a normal reaction. Try to focus on your child’s strengths and needs, not on how society may react to him or her.
- Autism is on a spectrum and your child most likely will be very different from other children you may know with ASD and will respond to interventions and therapy differently as well.
- The incidence of autism appears to be increasing (one of every 68 children in the U.S. and one of every 42 boys have been diagnosed with ASD). It’s not known if that is because of an increase in numbers or the result of improved detection. At any rate, ASD is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the U.S.
- There is not a known cure for ASD but early detection is vital to provide your child with language and social skills. It’s important to remember that even if your child has special needs they can also be intelligent, thoughtful, creative and talented. It may not be obvious to others but their minds do work differently. And their bodies may receive stimuli differently because of the way they are affected by their environment.
- Educate yourselves as much as you can about ASD. Seek out support groups such as the Autism Society of Minnesota which is committed to education, advocacy and support designed to enhance the lives of those affected by ASD
- There are substantial benefits from early, intensive, family-based treatment programs. The best approaches are those that target social and communication skills along with behavior. These should be adapted to your child’s pattern of strengths and weaknesses, and take your family’s circumstances into account. As your child changes, you might notice changes in you as well. Many parents discover they have strengths and empathy they never realized before. They are challenged by the experience but they also are heartened by the power of their love for this child with special needs. They learn that they can fight for their child and others with ASD and guide them to their true potential. It is also important for you to devote time to your marriage and give yourselves some breaks. Consider using respite care which would also benefit your child’s siblings. This experience can be hard on them as well. You might also seek counseling for you and your family.
- Don’t hesitate to try a few different treatment approaches to find what works best for your child and family. Treatments have continued to change rather dramatically over the decades so be sure to keep up with what’s current. (This is another good reason to be involved with support groups and those organizations devoted to ASD interventions.)
- You most likely have concerns about your child’s prognosis. There is no one answer because the causes of the disorder vary from child to child, For many children, symptoms frequently become milder as the child ages. Some experts say having an I.Q. above 50, the ability to speak before age six and having a useful skill may improve the prognosis. Public school are responsible for providing an education through an individualized education program. Be sure to get involved with your child’s education and whatever services the school might provide.