If you have had a child diagnosed with Autism (or ASD), it can be tough to know what to do next. The developmental pediatrician or clinical psychologist that diagnosed your child may have given you some starting points for your child, but what else should you know?
Let’s take a look at things you should know about before considering certain developmental programs and options for your child.
Diagnostic Levels of Autism
The first thing you should take note of is the level of your child’s symptoms and abilities in regards to the autism spectrum. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists 3 levels of severity for autism spectrum disorder:
- Level 1 – Requiring support. Level 1 is typically defined by inflexible behavior in multiple contexts, difficulty switching from one activity to another, and problems with organization & planning.
- Level 2 – Requiring substantial support. Level 2 is typically defined by difficulty with changes to routines, repetitive behaviors that interfere with everyday activities, and distress or difficulty changing attention or actions.
- Level 3 – Requiring very substantial support. Level 3 is typically defined by extreme difficulty coping with changes, restrictive or repetitive behaviors affecting many aspects of a daily routine, and major difficulties changing attention or actions.
Each diagnostic level of autism requires different plans for proper action to be taken.
There are many services available to help individuals with ASD. Many of these services can work in tandem to create a cohesive plan to help with many aspects of autism. Some of the areas to start looking for help with a new autism diagnosis include:
- ABA Therapy (only evidence-based)
- Speech Therapy
- Occupational Therapy.
- Individualized Education Programs.
Many ASD service providers cover several of these areas and can help point you in the right direction for services they don’t provide. Having a plan with communication between service providers is essential for providing adequate care. If you need to see multiple therapists make sure they share reports with each other–using conflicting therapy methods and tools may not work as intended. Consistency and communication are necessary!
Working with ASD at Home
Aside from professional help, there are many things parents can do at home to help a child with autism learn and develop. These are general good practices to add structure and stability to the home life of a child with autism. Make sure to maintain good communication with any ASD service providers to ensure both you and the professionals are teaching your child the same thing!
Simply scheduling consistent activities on a day-to-day basis can greatly reduce negative reactions to change at home. Getting settled in a scheduled routine is a great way for a child to know what to expect each day. Scheduling can include chores, meal times, bedtime routines, playtime, learning time, errands, and anything else that needs to be done on a regular basis.
Use Visual Aids
Using visual aids can help children with autism learn and digest information more efficiently. Providing imagery for tasks or events can help a child understand what is happening or what they need to do. Using visual aids in tandem with a scheduling calendar is also a great tool that may be easy for a child with ASD to understand.
Learn & Control Sensory Issues
Many individuals with autism have certain sensory issues. These sensory issues can be triggered by any of the 5 senses. Learning what causes certain undesired behaviors or outbursts can help you avoid situations at home. Make sure that the whole family and any guests are aware of any sensory triggers.
Children with autism usually have a range of language limitations or delays. Due to their lack of verbal, complex, or social communication children with autism will often engage in problem behaviors to get their needs met. Learning small steps stones of communication with your therapy team and encouraging them with your child will help promote their self-advocacy, decrease tantrums, and increase their communication skills.
Follow through with Demands
Oftentimes, because of limited communication skills, children with autism say, “no!” with their behaviors in big ways. Parents are often, and rightfully, overwhelmed giving into their child’s behaviors because it is how they are communicating. However, as language is being promoted it is important to provide consistent boundaries to decrease tantrums and other harmful behaviors like self-injury.
There are many other things that can be done to help with behavioral issues, but they should be given to you by your child’s ASD service provider(s). Making sure things stay on a consistent schedule and being aware of your child’s needs & triggers can go a long way in smoothing out life at home. It is important to only follow the recommendations of a Board Certified Behavior Analyst when choosing and implementing a behavior intervention plan.
ABA Therapy from IABA Consultants
If you have questions regarding autism treatment, education, or plans using ABA therapy, we are here for you! Our goal is to make sure no family is turned away due to financial constraints. Our therapy team would love to talk to you. Find the location closest to you and give us a call. We’re here for you.