Karen Simmons, founder of the advocacy group AutismToday.com has one thing to say to parents who suspect their child could have developmental problems, including autism: “Get over it fast. Do not stay in a state of denial. It will only hurt your child. Start addressing the problem and help your child,” says this mother of 6 kids, including 2 with special needs.
Through her experience and her group’s advocacy, she’s outlined the 10 must-dos.
Start local. Build a support system; learn what resources you have nearby and what you’ll need to travel for.
Qualify your healthcare provider. Work with a provider who has experience with and who specializes in autism. Get referrals from parents or a reputable autism organization.
Tell everyone. Educate relatives, friends, neighbors and your child’s siblings and peers about what autism is and what your family is going through. This leads to greater acceptance and support.
Ask for help. Discover and use the government agencies and services that support the cause, especially early intervention.
Find special services. The earlier the intervention, the greater the hope for a good outcome. Your child may need speech and language services, recreational therapy, occupational therapy, physical and behavioral therapy and so forth.
Go online. Reliable websites will point you to programs, services, interventions, therapies and support.
Take a break. You can’t do this 24/7. Find and use qualified caregivers to regularly give yourselves a break; you’ll need it.
Get educated. Stay current with the latest medical, biomedical, behavioral and education services so you can choose what your child and family needs.
Get involved. Go to local support groups, attend conferences and follow the experts in the field—you’ll likely build lifelong alliances.
Plan for the future. Currently, autism is a lifelong disorder. With the right interventions, it can improve over time, especially with the right mindset from the parents, family, caregivers and support persons around your child.