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On April 2, 2016, we will acknowledge World Autism Awareness Day. During this time, organizations and people around the world will celebrate how far autism awareness has come. If you are a new parent of a child with autism or even a veteran, you may still have questions about your child’s diagnosis. Since there is still so much that we do not know about autism, World Autism Awareness Day continues to make autism and families living with someone who has autism, known around the world. But despite your level of awareness and/or how you are affected by autism, there are a few things that you should know.
1. Parental involvement is key.
It goes without saying that being involved in your child’s education is a critical part in their school success. However, some parents may not know how to get involved or how much involvement is necessary. For children with autism, parents should be more hands-on and participate with their child in whatever therapies and treatments they are receiving. This brings the family together and also empowers parents in the process. It is also important that parents maintain communication with the school and the child’s case manager. This way parents can stay alert of any changes to their child’s IEP, if changes are happening in the classroom, and find out ways they can improve their child’s education. Maintaining a strong parent-teacher relationship is important for the success of any child, but especially for children with special needs.
2. Early intervention, yields a better prognosis.
Effective treatment of any diagnosis starts early. This is why early intervention is so important. Since there are many interventions available for children with autism, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA), it is important to begin early. For instance, ABA is a treatment where children learn basic and/or complex skills (i.e. imitating, listening, or having a conversation) by rewarding the “correct” behavior. Many therapists recommend that this intensive therapy begin as early as 18 months, because it it possible that early treatment can significantly decrease autism symptoms as they get older. In addition to ABA, pediatricians are now trained to keep a look out for early symptoms of autism, but limiting diagnoses to after the age of 18 months. However, if your child does receive a diagnosis this early on, I would suggest getting a second opinion.
3. There is still controversy of what causes autism.
I am sure that you have all heard the controversy about what causes autism. Vaccines? Diet? Genetics? Or is it an overdiagnosis of the disorder? Depending on who you ask and/or what books you read, you can make an argument for each case. But, the bottom line is (and this is my opinion) no one is 100% sure. Maybe all these factors contribute to the high rise in the cases of autism, or maybe none of them do. Yet, the good thing that came out this great debate is that there is more awareness about autism then ever before. Despite what you believe or have read, stay aware and continue to advocate for your child. Our advocacy will continue to help all children who have been diagnosed with autism get the help that they need.
4. No child with autism is the same.
Have you heard the saying, “No child with autism is the same?” This statement is uniquely true. Even though every child with autism has symptoms, different abilities, and challenges, the level of disability and a child’s symptoms vary widely from child to child. Every student who had autism that I have worked with has been completely different. Yes, some of them exhibited some of the same symptoms, but some of them did not. This is important to note because as a parent you have to understand what may work for someone else’s child, may not work for your child. Sometimes as teachers, parents, and therapists we have to be creative to find out what will work for each child. As a parent, you have to find the treatment that addresses your child’s unique needs and not just the needs of “children with autism.”
5. There are MANY resources out there for parents.
In today’s society, we can go on the internet and find a wealth of information on any topic. Luckily, autism is one of them. With so many resources available, from organizations to therapies to books to toys, parents have a lot to choose from to benefit their child. If you are looking for a lot of great websites for autism families, check out Autism Speaks. They list several websites to point you in the right direction or if your are looking for specific resources. But remember, regardless of the resources, toys, or treatments you decide to use, make sure they are tailored to fit your child’s needs.
What are your “should knows” about autism?