There’s no need to panic.
Being told your child has a diagnosis of autism can be a frightening experience, but there’s no need to panic. Instead, consider this a positive first step in obtaining the best help. Keep in mind, a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can mean many different things, since all children have their own unique ways of developing and interacting with the world. Those diagnosed with autism are no different. The maturity and level of success your child achieves depends on many factors. Genetics, education, family, and opportunity all play key roles, just as they do for any child.
How to tell if your child has autism
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can’t be diagnosed by a blood or medical test. Instead, specific behaviors, such as deficits in communication, socialization, and behavior are evaluated by professionals experienced in diagnosing ASD. There’s a common saying about autism: “If you’ve seen one person on the spectrum, you’ve seen one person on the spectrum.” How children manifest these behavioral deficits typically vary from child to child.
Parents are encouraged to have their children screened for ASD using the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers–Revised (MCHAT) as a first step. The MCHAT-R can be completed online. Based on the screening results, parents should consult their pediatric physician.
- Failure to respond to their name
- Poor eye contact
- Selective hearing
- Resists cuddling and holding
- Unaware of others’ feelings
- Prefers playing alone
- Does not ask for help
- Does not make requests
- Delayed speech and use of gestures
- Regression in vocabulary
- Speaking in an abnormal tone
- Struggling with conversations
- Repeating words or phrases
- Difficulty understanding questions or directions
- Repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning, or hand-flapping
- Development of specific routines with resistance to change
- Fascination with the details of an object
- Unusual sensitivity to light, sound, and touch
- Unusually high tolerance for pain
- Lack of engagement in imaginative play
- Odd or selective food preferences
- Self-injurious behaviors, such as head banging
What goals are considered part of ABA therapy?
Goals are individualized for each family and driven by the needs and desires of the family unit. Following the assessment, the team will work with you to determine specific goals that are a priority for you as a family. Many times, families identify goals related to the reduction of problem behaviors (tantrums, aggression, non-compliance, etc.), appropriate play skills, social skills, and expressive/receptive language development.
How do I know when my child is making progress?
You may recognize progress as a heightened moment of connection and communication with your child. You will identify progress in the way your child engages the world or demonstrates a new skill. Likely, you will recognize progress both passively and actively through the gradual lessening of tantrums and/or the curbing of aggressiveness. Interactions at school and at home become less stressful for both you and your child. Progress is as individualized as goals, interventions, and services.
Why is parent training and engagement so important?
The rate of your child’s progress is directly proportional to the amount of time committed to therapy. In addition to the hours of service and treatment devoted to your child by the professional team, Behavior Analysts strongly encourage parent training in order to set up the family for success in providing for consistency outside of formal treatment sessions. Working together to provide for learning opportunities is key to successful outcomes.
My child has just been diagnosed or is showing early symptoms of autism. What things can I do at home to help?
Following an assessment by the Behavior Analyst, we will work collaboratively with you to provide tools, resources and support for creating a beneficial home program for your child. Activities may include implementing a visual schedule, working on appropriate play, and creating opportunities for your child to seek out the appropriate person to ask for assistance.