A child’s first steps are both the scariest and the most significant. Overcoming that first fear sets the foundation to conquering future obstacles. From there, kids learn to run, ride a bike, and play soccer. Along with a child’s first steps they also discover a crowd of support as their parents cheer them on to keep going.
Parents of children with Autism also have a vital first step to take: seeking the diagnosis.
No, it isn’t fun. The road will be bumpy. There will be obstacles. But it will put the child on the right path to reach their full potential. Parents will find the support of those who will advocate for their child, answer all their questions, and most importantly, celebrate the milestones.
The following steps will help guide parents during the diagnosis process:
- Consult your family doctor or pediatrician. They will refer you to an Autism specialist or a team of specialists, including but not limited to: a child psychologist, a child psychiatrist, a pediatric neurologist, a speech pathologist and/or a developmental pediatrician.
- Follow through with the evaluation. Getting evaluated for Autism Spectrum Disorder consists of parent interviews, a medical exam, a hearing test, and direct observations. Clinicians will assess the child’s level of social behavior, social understanding, speech and language, play behavior, motor skills and adaptive behavior (ex: eating, dressing and toileting)
- Gather resources to begin a treatment program as soon as possible. Research has indicated that undergoing intensive behavioral therapy as a toddler can significantly improve cognitive and language skills in younger children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
With an early diagnosis, little ones with Autism can receive intensive therapy as young as 15 months old. Therapists, a part of the support team, develop unique, individualized treatment interventions to build onto the child’s strengths. From emphasizing eye contact to reinforcing every little sound as an infant, a 5-year-old with Autism will be prepared to play with peers, ask for help, or tell stories upon their first day of kindergarten. The greatest developments will come from prompt action and a readiness to learn.
“Growth is never by mere chance. It is a result of forces working together” – James Cash Penney
Written by: Tori Mason, Registered Behavior Technician