Ask Reading Kingdom: What can parents of newly diagnosed children on the autism spectrum do to get the best possible resources for their child?

Give yourself some time: The diagnosis of autism can be overwhelming and one of the most important things a family can do is to not panic. Many parents understandably try to spring into action and get as many services in place as soon as possible. While it is vital to take action, it is equally vital not to rush into action. Take some weeks to do fact finding and to seek advice as to the best course to follow in empowering your child to attain better levels of performance and greater levels of contentment. One of the first steps is to go to medical and educational agencies in your community and get information on the services that are available. Since services can be heavily used, place yourself on waiting lists as you continue your search.

Reach out to other families: The experience of others can be extremely helpful in enabling you to see how you should proceed. At the same time, do not be convinced to follow what they may have done. For it to work, the framework that you set up has to fit your life—including elements such as your finances, the other children in your family, and the hours you have available. Most importantly, you have to feel that the therapy and intervention being outlined seems “right” for your child.

More may not be better: Fortunately, there is a wide range of services available to treat the many varied, aspects of autism. However, for a host of reasons (financial, time constraints, your child’s symptoms, etc.) it may be best to limit the ones you select. Sometimes, the services –no matter how useful—can exhaust your child and exacerbate the problems. It is helpful to prioritize your concerns (e.g., meltdowns, diet, poor sleep patterns, language) and try to focus initially on the top three in deciding how to proceed.  These can change, of course, over time as your child and your understanding grow.

Treat Yourself Well: You are your child’s best advocate and you will be spending large amounts of time in dealing with your child and in gaining services for him or her. It is important that you be calm and rested. So make sure to regularly do things for yourself that support your health and vitality (taking a daily walk, having coffee with a friend, watching movies on TV, etc.). At the same time, try to avoid situations that may upset you (such as unwelcome advice from friends or family members).

When It Comes to Education, Focus on Literacy: Reading is key to a successful life in our world. One of the most unfortunate aspects of current intervention is the minimal attention given to this realm. Many, albeit not all, children with ASD who are verbal learn to decode. But even when they are superb at decoding, they often find comprehension to be out of reach. And for the many children who do not speak, almost no effort is made to enable them to learn to read. The general view is “If they can’t speak, how can they possibly learn to read?” The neglect of literacy is a tragedy for the children, their families and the nation. With proper instruction, most of the children can be taught to read and comprehend, leading to invaluable opportunities in schools, universities and work. This should not be your first area of concern when your child is initially diagnosed. Other issues take priority. But once a reasonable routine is in place, keep in mind that effective skill in literacy is possible and it is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your child.

Use the many resources on the internet: There is a host of information available, much of it produced by agencies and foundations devoted to autism. Some of the chief ones are:

www.autismspeaks.org

www.autism-society.org/

https://iancommunity.org/

www.simonsfoundation.org/

www.kulturecity.org/

www.wrightslaw.com

www2.ed.gov/programs/specedautism/

ASD Reading is the reading program for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The online program teaches kids to read, write and comprehend.  Sign up today for a free 30 day trial.