Help Me!! My Child Has Autism

What do you do when you just heard your child’s diagnosis of autism? While those words answer the question of what’s wrong with my child, they also create more questions and an atmosphere of uncertainty for moms and dads everywhere. Often parents are left wondering what type of therapy or resources are available. As Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) becomes more understood, there is an abundance of material and information to help parents and their children. While there is no cure for autism, with therapy and support, moms and dads are given tools to help their children live a fulfilling life. A mother of an autistic child faces these challenges on a daily basis and needs resources to help. The first step to take, after your child has been diagnosed, is to find a local support group. They are great for connecting with other parents of autistic children and can help you cope with the diagnosis and find local resources in your community. Secondly, you should begin accessing services for your child. Initial services are often free of charge and include Early Intervention services through the state (children under three) and school-based services (children over three). Other services are available via private pay or through insurance plans.

Treatment Options

As parents, we always want what’s best for our kids. Early intervention is key in dealing with a child affected with ASD. Once your doctor has made the diagnosis of autism, an experienced therapist should evaluate your child and determine what their specific needs are. Since everyone is affected by ASD differently it is important to pinpoint what your child needs. Occupational/physical therapy is a good first step. An occupational therapist will focus on sensory perception and neuromuscular and visual skill systems, while a physical therapist will work on improving physical function such as muscle tone, posture, and coordination skills. As well as occupational or physical therapy, your doctor may prescribe medications that can help with symptoms of autism. Other options include Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), Sensory Integration Therapy (S IT), Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT), DIR/Floortime, speech and language therapy, and social skills training. Working together with doctors and therapists, moms and dads will incorporate therapy techniques into everyday home life.

Accessing Available Services

When a child is diagnosed with ASD, parents are often hit with a wave of uncertainty as to where to find help. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law signed by President Bush in 1990 and governs how states and other agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to children affected by disabilities from birth to 21. This law replaced the Education of the Handicapped Act. According to, IDEA states that children with disabilities are entitled to a free appropriate public education and that each child’s education will be planned and monitored with an individualized education program or an individualized family service plan. Section 612 of IDEA states:

To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children, who are not disabled, and that special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 1990)

To access services in your area, you need to contact your local Early Intervention Agency if your child is under 3 or your local school district if your child is over the age of 3. Your child will be evaluated by agency experts and appropriate plans will be put in place. An Individualized Family Service Plan or an Individualized Education Plan will be designed specifying the services that will be needed.

Additional IEP Resources for Parents


Support Groups

Finding support groups can be essential to moms and dads and other family members. They provide parents with newly diagnosed children in connection with other parents who are experiencing some of the same things you are and can help cope with this new diagnosis and help facilitate resources in your community. The website offers a list of support groups for children diagnosed with ASD. Even though it may seem daunting, with support and patience parents can navigate the choppy waters of Autism Spectrum Disorder.