You hear the word “autism” and a thousand emotions rush through your body: fear, confusion, anger, guilt, anxiety, relief, sadness. You are not alone, and it is normal to feel this way. There are so many questions, and an avalanche of information to examine. The important thing to remember is that, although there is no known cure for autism, there is hope. The following days after your child’s diagnosis with autism can be overwhelming, but little by little, here are the steps for what to do next.
The life of your family has just undergone a major change, and you as a parent need to know that it’s okay to feel the way you do. Take time to grieve. And although it is natural to be angry and confused, try not to blame yourself. Talk with your family; they will also experience the adjustment and process everything in their own way, and it all will take time, patience, and understanding.
The earlier the intervention, the more your child will benefit. If he or she has been formally evaluated, be sure to consider all the recommendations given. Contact your child’s school to inform them of the diagnosis and begin the process of creating an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP will mandate that the school provide certain services for your child depending on his or her needs, such as in-school speech and occupational therapy, or inclusion in a special education classroom.
When seeking services, be sure to consult with a professional first. Services that are often helpful for children with autism include, but are not limited to:
Getting a plan together is the best possible way to ease your stress and to get your child on the right path. Find out if you qualify for financial benefits such as an In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS). In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) is a California government program that provides economic support for in-home caretakers of children with developmental disabilities. Discovering the right resources will make you feel less vulnerable. California has early intervention services in addition to special education for children who are diagnosed with autism and ASD.
Connect with other parents
It’s important for you to surround yourself with a support base of other parents who have children with autism. They can be a touchstone for you, so you know you aren’t alone. Furthermore, they can offer you recommendations for everything from locating the best doctor or speech therapist in your area to understanding the processes for education, special programs, finances, and home life.
Don’t expect the educational systems to stand up for all of the services your child needs. Your child has certain rights, by law, and you need to know what they are so you can maximize your child’s outcomes. It is essential to have professionals on your side who have extensive knowledge in public policy issues affecting people with autism and related disorders, including state and federal programs such as IEP (individualized education program), LRE (least restrictive environment), EI (early intervention), IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), and FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education). Protecting your child’s human and civil rights will go a long way in getting him or her the help your family needs to thrive.
And as always, if you feel overwhelmed and you need help, please contact us.
American Advocacy Group is on the front lines every day, making positive change happen for people diagnosed with Autism, Down syndrome and a range of diagnoses across the continuum. As a leading advocate for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, and the premier provider of the support and services people want and need, we understand the system and know how to take action in regard to your best interests.
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