The most important thing to remember if your child receives an autism diagnosis is that you are not alone, and it is not your fault. According to statistics on autism issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2022, 1 in 44 kids has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Although the root of autism is still unknown, genetics and environment are thought to play a part, and a parent is in no way responsible for their child’s autism diagnosis.
There are many emotions a parent can feel upon receiving an autism diagnosis for their child, and no emotional response should be considered inappropriate or wrong in any way. Some may be surprised, while others may already know the signs and feel significant relief upon confirmation. Regardless of the initial impact, the challenge arises in understanding the inner world of a child diagnosed with autism and what to do next
While there is no cure for autism, recognizing that there is hope for your child’s future is the most crucial step you can take. Over the next several months and years, your child will develop new skills in areas you may never expect. The first course of action—educating yourself about your child’s autism diagnosis and making adjustments as necessary to meet your child’s needs—is addressed here. In addition, parents ought to seek out professional therapy as soon as possible.
What Does Spectrum Mean?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) frequently causes behavior, communication, and social relationship issues. Additionally, repetitive and constrained hobbies or activities might appear. In 2013, modifications to the diagnostic criteria recognized PDD-NOS and Asperger’s under the umbrella of autism. Whatever modifications continue to be made, families should continue to feel at ease using the phrases that work for them.
As the name implies, ASD has a spectrum of severity. When a child has been diagnosed with autism, some will speak, while others won’t. People who are “high functioning” may be able to communicate successfully and advocate for their needs. Conversely, a child considered “lower functioning” may not speak at all. The symptoms and abilities of your child will fall into one of three levels that denote severity.
Level 1: The least socially apparent level, children in this category are “higher functioning” and require less intensive assistance. Language and cognitive abilities in this category may not be severely impacted.
Level 2: Here, we see some cognitive and language deficiencies that require “substantial” assistance. These difficulties lead to social impairment and more severe communication challenges.
Level 3: The most acute category, children at this level are considered “lower functioning” and require “quite substantial support.” Their language and cognitive abilities are compromised, often rendering them unable to live independently.
Some of the symptoms exhibited by a child diagnosed with ASD include:
- Having trouble in social situations, such as not being able to read nonverbal clues or making eye contact
- Being inflexible and incapable of adjusting to routine changes
- Displaying repetitive actions, such as spinning, tumbling to the ground, or excessive hand movements
- Focusing on favorite interests to the exclusion of external stimuli, such as particular media characters or TV shows
- Echolalia: the repetition of words and phrases
- Difficulty pretending or playing imaginatively. For instance, children with autism can become fixated on spinning a toy car’s wheels instead of pushing it
“My child has been diagnosed with autism. What steps can I take?”
Use visual aids
Children with autism are better visual than auditory learners. When communicating with your child, using a visual depiction of language has many advantages. The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), which consists of symbols and images that assist in communicating with those diagnosed with autism, can be a helpful tool. Consult a specialist, such as a physician or behavioral therapist, if you think your child would benefit from a system like PECS.
Become Knowledgeable About Positive and Negative Reinforcement
Changing your response to a child’s conduct is the most efficient way to change the child’s behavior. If your child misbehaves, such as having a crying fit over a toy they want to purchase, consider how caving in might inform their future actions. This is known as positive reinforcement, rewarding behavior by giving the child what they want, and it can create a robust association between an effort and its reward. Bad behavior that goes reinforced will become more prevalent. The opposite of this is negative reinforcement, in which you respond by withholding the desired outcome or removing something else. When you respond to conduct with a negative consequence, such as withholding attention or restricting access to a toy, you will notice less of it in the future.
When children are driven and encouraged, all children—including neurodivergent ones—are more likely to develop and learn. Here are a few instances:
- Make a chart-style incentives system for your child, like the rewards systems often used by teachers. Your child can get points for acting correctly, and after a certain amount of time, they can exchange it for an object or activity they love.
- Give your child options all day long to help them feel independent and in charge.
- When your child does something you want to see more of, praise them verbally right away. Actions that merit rewards include being verbal, following instructions, and being compliant when it’s time to move on to a new activity.
- Screaming or other disruptive actions are frequently attempts to communicate. If the child is not in danger, it is preferable to disregard these behaviors. Your child will eventually start acting reasonably to seek your attention. Remember positive reinforcement; you must demonstrate that disruptive actions won’t achieve their desired results.
Strengthen and Expand the Support Structure
Children with an autism diagnosis frequently perform better in ordered surroundings. They thrive in structure when the day is as predictable as possible. As previously mentioned, engaging the child visually and incorporating that into their daily routine is ideal. Here are some tips on how to do it:
- Provide your child with a daily itinerary that details events with graphics and text.
- Keep a colorful rule list with image aids to help them internalize expectations.
- Give your child a visual alert before an activity is over. An example would be a come-here hand motion when it’s time to leave a place.
Pay Attention to Sensory Issues
The senses of a child diagnosed with autism may be different from yours. Autistic people may not process exterior stimuli as a neurotypical person would. Loud music or bright lights are the most common example of this, with autistic children feeling overwhelmed and hypersensitive. Alternatively, they may clamor for intense stimuli such as a deep and lasting hug. You can make your child’s environment more comfortable by being more mindful of their preferences.
Take Effective Steps to Get Your Child the Service They Require
You will frequently hear how crucial early intervention is. Children’s brains are still growing and developing, so they will be more likely to adapt and learn new things if transitioned early to therapy such as ABA therapy. If your child has previously undergone evaluation, take into account the aftercare recommendations made by their provider and decide if they work for your family. Inform your child’s school about their autism diagnosis so they can start developing an individualized education plan (IEP). The IEP will guarantee that your child’s requirements are met and that the school makes accommodations.
Consult your child’s developmental pediatrician to discuss your alternatives while looking for supportive services, such as Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA therapy. Other services to consider are:
- Workplace therapy
- Physical exercise
- Support groups for social skills
- Psychiatric assistance
How Can ABA Help After Your Child Is Diagnosed with Autism?
Autism symptoms can benefit from ABA therapy since it encourages helpful conduct and reinforces desired behavior. Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) and Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) employ various strategies to promote the development of language, communication, and other skills necessary for independence. ABA’s effectiveness has been investigated and confirmed in several studies. Many facets of ABA assist your child in achieving their objectives by giving them the required assistance. Plans of care will be personalized based on the patient’s age, particular needs, and desired outcomes of family therapy.
Let ABA Centers of New Jersey Support your Child’s Journey
At ABA Centers of NJ, everyone understands that your child means the world to you and that you would do anything to help them. Following an autism diagnosis, choosing ABA therapy means putting your trust in a science supported by evidence, experience, and study. You can anticipate advancements in your child’s communication, growth, and advocacy by including ABA therapy in their life.
Making your child as independent as possible will ultimately give them a fulfilling life. Call us at (855) 640-7888 for a free consultation if you’re interested in learning more about ABA therapy and how it can benefit your family.