Learning that your child has received a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder can spark an array of emotions in a family. We understand you may have feelings of disbelief, worry, confusion, and most of all, an endless list of questions. While your child’s doctors have likely supplied you with several resources to read through, we know you’re wondering where you should even begin. Our team of professionals understands the overwhelming amount of information you have been given may be difficult to process at this time. We are dedicated to providing you with guidance and knowledge. We are here to help your family navigate through this time and steer you in the right direction. We’ve compiled a helpful guide so you may begin the process of finding the support and services your child and family need.
Where Should I Begin?
Contacting your health care insurance provider is one call you will likely make first. They can help supply you with a list of therapists and services in your area. However, you will also want to do a little digging for recommendations and experiences other families have had. So, while there will be many items on your to-do list, beginning your research on programs that utilize evidence-based practices should start now.
Starting with Early Intervention
Early intervention has proven to be extremely effective for children with autism. Keep in mind; you will undoubtedly find a variety of interventions out there for children with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD. But not all interventions for ASD are scientifically proven to work. Be sure to choose treatments with safe and effective methods and strategies that have been proven through scientific research.
According to the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder, twenty-seven evidence-based practices were classified in 2014. These practices include:
Cognitive Behavioral Intervention
Discrete Trial Teaching
Functional Behavior Assessment
Functional Communication Training
Pivotal Response Training
Social Skills Training
Structured Play Groups
Over the years, additional practices have continued to emerge. As some of these are proven to be evidence-based, we will see them classified here as well.
No matter what age the diagnosis is received, or how far along one is in treatment, evidence-based practices will always be beneficial throughout your child’s life. Each method offers proven ways to help your child learn and form long-term behaviors and life skills. Evidence-based practices focus on the areas and skills that are deemed to be relevant to each individual’s life and needs. One such method that is often sought first and proven to be beneficial throughout your child’s life is Applied Behavioral Analysis or ABA. ABA therapy can be a vital component to your child’s wellbeing and success across all areas of his life.
What Is ABA Therapy?
ABA Therapy studies human behaviors and focuses on replacing harmful or unwanted behavior with a desirable one. Skills and appropriate behaviors your child needs to learn are broken down into small, easily understood instructions. These new behaviors or skills are taught through modeling, encouragement, and positive reinforcement. Using these practices help to ensure long-term results. Through ABA therapy, you, your child, and his team of therapists work together to create and implement goals to help your child thrive in his natural environments. Finding the ABA Therapy program that fits your child’s and family’s needs is critical to his success and wellbeing.
How Do I Find ABA Therapy for My Child?
Your child’s doctors may have provided a list of recommendations, but there are additional avenues you can explore as well.
· Find a support group, either online or in-person. There are many groups for families with children who have been diagnosed with a disability, or ASD specifically. Support groups are filled with parents who were in your shoes at one time. They can relate to your feelings and know your needs. They are an excellent source for recommendations for ABA Therapy centers, as well as additional therapies, activities, and resources you will need.
· Public schools are resourceful and can assist you with information on whether your child is school-age or not. School readiness is a vital area of concentration in ABA Therapy, as well as additional therapies. The public school in your area will be able to assist with additional information, including how to help your child transition to public school, the IEP process, and Behavioral Intervention Plans.
At Blossom Behavioral Wellness Center, we provide an all-encompassing approach to providing services for your child and family. By offering ABA therapy services, plus many of the vital therapies your child may need, we can ensure all therapists and team members work together towards your child’s goals. Rather than expect your family to attend therapy sessions at various offices, we provide you with the convenience of all his therapists under one, familiar roof. Together, our team has the advantage of working together to help your child succeed in all areas.
Finding Support Throughout the Community
Reaching out to your local activities centers and churches is another avenue to explore when you are beginning to look for autism services and resources. You will find there are many activities and opportunities for your child and family. Several programs offer camps for children with special needs, catering to their skills, interests, and needs. Camps offer a fantastic way to teach and practice social skills with their peers and teachers. It also provides the perfect opportunity to follow through with ABA Therapy practices your child has been working on. Here are a few helpful tips to assist you in finding the camp program that would fit your child’s needs. Or check with your local YMCA for recommended activities and classes.
Finding Resources for Extracurricular Activities
Extracurricular activities at any age offer an excellent way for your child to:
· Form friendships
· Build their confidence
· Learn to work as a team
· Develop interests
· Discover strengths and skills
· Practice language skills
Many extracurricular activities for children with disabilities create an environment where a physical or learning disability, or even a language delay, does not hinder the ability to participate. Try looking into structured clubs, such as Boys and Girls Scouts, to find various opportunities for your child to try. Additional resources include:
· Multiple sports: Special Olympics
The Financial Side of Meeting Your Health Care Needs
Medical expenses can add up quickly. You may or may not have adequate coverage or insurance at all. We know this is often an enormous area of stress for many families. We hope the resources below help you get started on the right path to meeting financial needs. You may find yourself needing assistance for:
· Early intervention services
· ABA therapy
· Speech-Language therapy
· Occupational therapy
· Behavioral therapy
· Family counseling
· Medical supplies and equipment
· Transportation needs
There are opportunities for assistance for all your needs. After you’ve spoken with your health insurance provider, you may find that the resources below can be beneficial to your family’s needs. Among them are Family Grant Opportunities. Here you will find a compiled list of more than twenty family grants meant to assist with your various needs, including:
- FODAC offers free or very low-cost medical equipment, various modifications your child needs in your home, transportation, and more.
· Autism Escapes is an Angel Network that is designed to provide the use of a private jet for families who require medical attention
- Danny’s Wish iPads for autism is a lottery held each year for an iPad for your child. iPads have proven to be an incredible way for your child to learn, imitate, and communicate.
Respite Care for Your Child with Special Needs
If your family is in need of respite care, the organizations below and here to assist you:
· ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center are designed to help you find private respite care for your child’s needs. They can also provide a list of helpful resources in your area.
- Easter Seals provides various recreational and social activities. They even offer care for your child, giving the caregiver a chance to rest.
- The Arc provides resources for respite care no matter what the age.
As the primary caregivers, you are going to need your own support and resources. Use this site to find help and information in various areas, including finding healthcare providers near you, inclusion, early intervention services, ABA therapy, and advice on keeping yourself and child healthy. It’s a wealth of information you will use often.
Resources and Funding for a Variety of Needs:
There are many wonderful sites and organizations ready and willing to supply you with the help and knowledge you need. Below is a handful our team has put together in an effort to save you time and research.
Here you’ll find a list of organizations and resources for your entire family. Whether you are needing home adaptations or want to help make a wish come true for your child, you’ll find helpful sites and assistance, including:
· Make A Wish Foundation
· Action for Autism
· Camp New Hope
· Helping from Heaven
· Hospitals and private foundations for children with disabilities
· Co-payment assistance for prescription drugs
· Wish-granting organizations
· Transportation assistance and options
· National organizations, including local chapters
· Resources for early intervention
· Information and support for online fundraising needs
Apps: A Resource Worth Considering
Devices and their games and apps have always been a great debate. Are kids spending too much time on devices? Are they educational or just an excuse for more play? If you are selective about the apps you choose, and monitor screen time, they can prove to be very helpful. Early intervention and ABA therapy strategies can also be enhanced through the use of proper apps.
There are many apps today that can help your child in various areas, including:
· Communicate or strengthen speech-language skills.
· Express needs, wants, and emotions
· Learn to read other’s feelings
· Communicate in various ways with peers and caregivers through apps
· Improve a child’s social skills
· Self -regulation
· Coping skills
Helpful Resources for Play
You may come across times where you feel like you can’t find the right toys to address your child’s specific needs. Often, sensory issues can be a concern for children with autism. This requires additional time and research when toy shopping. Here are a few of our favorite suggestions to consider:
· Fidget Toys This is the perfect bundle of toys for children with autism, anxiety, and ADHD. It keeps their hands busy by encouraging squeezing or manipulating. These toys are designed to instill a sense of calm and relaxation. There are many items and sensory opportunities to choose from, and they’ll keep your child engaged.
· The Feelings In A Flash is a set of flashcards that help you work with your child on recognizing emotions. Often a difficult concept for children with autism to grasp, the flashcards help your child understand the various feelings and emotions shown on the cards.
· Melissa and Doug offers choices for strengthening your child’s cognitive, sensory processing, focus skills, and more. Their site is conveniently organized by developmental skills.
As you process your child’s recent diagnosis, try not to let the tasks ahead overwhelm you. Gather recommendations from friends, parents in support groups, and educators. Do a little research of your own online. Reach out to community centers and organizations near you. You’ll find that each contact can help link you to your next. Ask questions and ask for help. And if you’re in the Detroit area, we’d love to be your source. At the Blossom Wellness Behavioral Center, we offer an all-encompassing approach to help simplify your life. Not in our area? Stop by our blog for weekly articles to help you on your journey. Visit us today!