Take a deep breath. Your child is amazing. Nothing about your child has changed. They are still the same adorable kid as when they walked into the doctor’s office. The term ‘autism’ often has a scary connotation. That is not reality. Many individuals with autism go on to lead fulfilling, meaningful lives.
This diagnosis has opened a door of available services that your child can now more easily access. After you have discussed your child’s diagnosis with your support network, you will want to begin therapy that will help your child access the kind of life you envision for them. Foremost, applied behavior analysis (ABA) will help your child learn new skills and decrease challenging behaviors. After securing ABA therapy, you may also want to consult speech, occupational, and physical therapists depending on your child’s needs.
How do I develop a support network?
Think of your support network as a circle. The middle of the circle is your family. The next largest circle contains your friends. These are the people who get you and love your child. Start there. They are the ones who will be there for you. Work from there to your existing support group – your pediatrician, diagnosing physician, and familiar adults (teachers, librarians, neighbors). Tap them for information, ask them if they know anyone who knows someone with autism that you could talk to. From there, reach out. Join social media groups for parents of children with disabilities. Research advocacy and support groups, including Autism NJ, POAC, Autism Speaks. If your child is under 3, contact NJ Early Intervention Services. They will come to your house and meet with you and your child. If your child is three or older, contact your local school district. Federal law states that children with disabilities are eligible to attend public school for free from ages 3-21. Your NJ school will come equipped with their own support system called a Child Study Team, including a school psychologist and social worker. Your school district should also have a special education parent advisory group. If you need help accessing any of these supports, contact us. The Internet is a wonderful resource but can be overwhelming and occasionally misleading or inaccurate. Sometimes you just need to talk to someone who has experience helping families of children with autism.
Next, check out our blog in What is ABA?