Being told that your child meets criteria for a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be a life-changing event for parents. First of all, it’s important to know that feeling uncertain, worried, and isolated is not unusual and you are not alone! On a positive note, as the prevalence of ASD continues to be better understood and identified, there are more and more resources and supports to help you, your child, and your family. Below are some key first steps to managing the ups and downs of parenting a child with ASD.
- Learn more about ASD. Autism is one of the most common developmental disabilities, but it can be difficult to understand. Below are some websites and books that can help parents find answers to their questions and, in turn, better understand their child.
o Autism Speaks: https://www.autismspeaks.org
o Autism Ontario: ttps://www.autismontario.com
o Geneva Centre for Autism: http://www.autism.net/facts.html
o Autism Spectrum Disorder (revised): The Complete Guide to Understanding Autism (Chantal Sicile-Kira)
o Uniquely Human (Barry M. Prizant)
o A Parent's Guide to High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder, Second Edition: How to Meet the Challenges and Help Your Child Thrive (Sally Ozonoff & Geraldine Dawson)
- Consider your own mental health. Parenting a child with autism can be demanding on. If you find yourself feeling stressed, isolated, or experiencing other difficult emotions, you may want to consider seeking individual therapy to address the unique issues you are facing. There are also parenting groups specific to ASD that can allow you to connect to other parents with similar experiences. Remember, to effectively help your child you need to first look after your own needs and cope with your own challenges.
- Talk to your child’s school. Academic placement may require careful consideration by you and your child’s school. The clear structure, predictability and behavioural management strategies of specialized classrooms can help support your child’s functioning. However, it also is important that he or she be placed with children with similar cognitive capacity. This is where the “spectrum” aspect of ASD comes in – the placement needs to be appropriate for your child’s unique academic needs and overall profile. Another option might be some (or even full-time) inclusion in a mainstreamed classroom setting with (or without) the assistance of an educational assistant or aide. It might be helpful to carefully evaluate the services that your child’s school can provide to determine the most appropriate academic setting.
Check out these resources to get more info:
- Find community supports/services that are a good fit for your child and family. Determining which services would be appropriate for your child, and then accessing them can be daunting for parents. Where to begin? So many options! A psychoeducational or psychological assessment can help clarify your child’s areas of strength and need as well as the type and level of support he or she requires to be successful. Various services can be utilized to help out (e.g., speech-language, social skills, accommodations at school, etc.) and then the research starts as to where to find those services. Some parents will opt for a one-stop-shop and others will go to various settings for various types of help. It may be helpful to speak to a professional or go to a community clinic specializing in autism, or talk to other parents who have navigated ASD services in your area. Below is a list of types of support and services that you might look into for your child.
o Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA)/Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) (centre-based, home-based, community-based)
o Play therapy
o Social skills group
o Occupational therapy
o Speech-language therapy
o Camps for children and youth with ASD/special needs (Camp Kodiak, Camp Aim, Integra Foundation, etc.)
o Family education, coaching, therapy, and support groups
o Respite services (e.g. short-term relief for parents e.g. CCAC or for emergency relief, 1-855-310-COPE)
o There are also other resources as well as funding options discussed on our website which is www.cornerpsych.com (e.g. CRA Tax Credit, SSHA, etc.)
Anna Bowers, M.A., Ph.D. Candidate