Parents’ Step-by-Step Intervention Plan for Recently Diagnosed Children:
1. Take Care of Yourself-- The first step in helping your child has to be about YOU taking care of YOU. Many moms and dads of kids with high functioning autism and Asperger’s feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and sometimes defeated. They talk about difficulties in their marriage and other relationships. While there is no quick fix for resolving negative emotions, you can take measures to care for yourself so your youngster's disorder does not get in the way of your physical or mental health. The following may seem obvious, but is exceedingly critical to your long-term success in helping your child (this is why we put it first, because you will not be able to be the parent you need to be if you are sick - mentally and physically):
- Eat a balanced diet and stay at a normal weight. Staying fit and healthy is essential to your physical and mental health.
- Exercise regularly. Keep up with the physical activities you enjoy.
- Plan time for a break away from your youngster. Find others (e.g., trusted family members and friends) who can help relieve you from these duties as needed. These breaks can help families communicate in a less stressful manner and can allow moms and dads to focus on their relationships with their other kids.
- Review your calendar weekly. In the midst of the many appointments your youngster may have with therapists or other health care professionals, write in "appointments" for yourself and your relationships.
- Schedule regular dates with your spouse, other kids in the family, and close friends.
- Seek help if you or your spouse are feeling chronically overwhelmed or depressed, or the stress of caring for your youngster is affecting your marriage.
- Watch for signs of anger, resentment, or opposition from other kids in the family. Your physician can help you find a qualified therapist to help you figure out the best ways to cope as a family.
2. Find a Support Network-- Parenting a youngster on the autism spectrum is taxing – it affects every part of your being. Making sure your youngster gets the help he or she needs can also pose a challenge, depending on whether quality support services are available in your area. Also, you are likely to have ongoing concerns about your youngster's prognosis and long-term well-being. Thus, you need to find strong social support for yourself and your youngster. Gathering your support network involves knowing ahead of time whom you can call for different types of support, even for emergencies, for example:
- a friend you enjoy being with and who helps you survive disappointments and shares your victories
- a neighbor or close friend who will help you out in a pinch
- your youngster's physician, educators, therapists, or other caregivers you can ask for advice on major decisions regarding his or her treatment
- a close friend or family member who is a confidant and whom you trust with your most personal feelings and concerns
In addition, plan outings with other parents who have kids with high functioning autism and Asperger’s. There are many parents who share your concerns and daily challenges. Talking openly with these parents can give you new insight and better ways of coping. Local and national groups can help connect families and provide much-needed sources of information. Ask your physician for referrals. Also, join online chat groups for moms and dads of kids with high functioning autism. The more you know about this disorder and the stronger your support network, the more empowered you will be to live confidently, knowing that your youngster can get the help he or she really needs.
3. Evaluate Your Youngster's Need for Medication-- While there is no medication for high functioning autism, there are drugs for specific symptoms these children may display:
- Kids with high functioning autism who have anxiety, depression, or OCD behaviors can often be treated with anti-depressants.
- Medicines may take a youngster with high functioning autism to a functional level at which they can benefit from other treatments.
- Short attention spans can sometimes be improved with stimulant drugs that are used to treat autistic children who also have ADD or ADHD.
- Some drugs may help prevent self-injury and other behaviors that are causing difficulty.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests targeting the main problem behaviors when considering medicines.
- The FDA approved Risperdal in 2006 for the treatment of irritability in kids and teens with high functioning autism.
- Some doctors may advise going off a medicine temporarily in order to identify whether it is having a positive or negative effect on your youngster.
4. Learn All You Can About High Functioning Autism-- Try to become an expert on this disorder. Here's how to start:
- Become familiar with public policies so you can be your youngster's advocate in gaining the best education and care possible.
- Communicate with other professionals and moms and dads and learn from those who've crossed this bridge before you as they share insights into common concerns.
- Make sure that plans (e.g., 504 or IEP) are in place for your youngster to receive therapies at school.
- Read all you can on high functioning autism so you understand the symptoms and behaviors and the differences in medications or alternative therapies.
- Talk to your physician about the best treatments and goals for educational services so you and your youngster can take advantage of all available resources.
5. Educate Yourself About Treatment Options-- Experts agree that a youngster with high functioning autism should receive treatment as soon after diagnosis as possible. There is no cure for this disorder, but early intervention using skills training and behavior modification strategies can yield awesome results. Skills training and behavior modification helps with impaired social interaction, communication problems, and repetitive behaviors. Also, these methods can boost the youngster's chances of being productive at school and participating in normal activities. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following approaches for helping a youngster with high functioning autism improve overall function and reach his or her potential:
- Behavioral training and management uses positive reinforcement, self-help, and social skills training to improve behavior and communication. Many types of treatments have been developed, including Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Kids (TEACCH), and sensory integration.
- Occupational and physical therapy can help improve any deficiencies in coordination, muscle tone, and motor skills. Occupational therapy may also help a youngster with high functioning autism to learn to process information from the senses (i.e., sight, sound, hearing, touch, and smell) in more manageable ways. It can also help in performing normal activities of daily living.
- Specialized therapies include speech, occupational, and physical therapy. These therapies are important components of managing high functioning autism and should all be included in various aspects of your youngster's treatment program.
- Speech therapy can help your youngster improve language and social skills to communicate more effectively.
6. Look Into Necessary Dietary Changes-- Diet changes are based on the idea that food allergies cause symptoms of high functioning autism. Also, an insufficiency of a specific vitamin or mineral may cause some autistic symptoms. If you decide to try a specialized diet for a given period of time, be sure you talk to your doctor. Your youngster's nutritional status must be assessed and carefully measured.
One diet that some moms and dads have found helpful is a gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet. Gluten is a casein-like substance found in wheat, oats, rye, and barley. Casein is the principal protein in dairy products. The theory of the GFCF diet is that these proteins result in an overproduction of opiates in the brain, contributing to social awkwardness and thwarting brain maturation in kids on the autism spectrum. Since gluten and milk are found in a lot of foods, following a gluten-free, casein-free diet is extremely difficult. Also, one supplement some moms and dads feel is helpful for their youngster with high functioning autism is vitamin B-6, which is taken with a magnesium supplement.
7. Consider Behavioral Training-- Behavioral training teaches children with high functioning autism how to communicate appropriately. This kind of training may reduce behavior problems and improve adaptation skills. Both behavioral training and behavioral management use positive reinforcement to improve behavior. These therapies also use social skills training to improve communication. The specific program should be chosen according to your youngster's needs. Consistent use of these behavioral interventions produces the best results. The youngster's functional abilities, behavior, and daily environment should be thoroughly assessed before behavioral training and management begins. Moms and dads, other family members, and educators should all be trained in these techniques, if possible.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is uniformly recommended by experts. The goal of behavior therapy programs is to reinforce desirable behaviors and decrease undesirable ones. For example, the youngster is taught to perform tasks in a series of simple steps and is given a predictable schedule. The behavioral therapy is then continued at home. Often times, both behavioral therapy and occupational therapy are given at the same time.
8. Educate Other Family Members-- Many mothers of children with high functioning autism talk about feeling isolated. Once the youngster is diagnosed, mothers often find that family members stop asking about the youngster, or the youngster is left out of birthday parties or other family gatherings.
Sometimes spouses and siblings admit to feeling stressed, lonely, and even angry because all attention is focused on the youngster with high functioning autism. While these feelings are natural, you can help your family members cope by educating them about high functioning autism and your youngster's specific needs.
Training family members about high functioning autism and how to effectively manage the symptoms has been shown to reduce family stress and improve the functioning of the youngster with high functioning autism. Some families will need more outside assistance than others, depending on their resiliency, established support systems, and financial situation.
In conclusion, be assured that this journey will be both demanding and rewarding. Raising a youngster with high functioning autism is the ultimate parenting challenge. But with the necessary support and ongoing training, you and your family can learn how to cope and work as a team. Parents of a child with high functioning autism talk about having very close relationships with him or her as they organize his or her therapy, hire specialists, purchase supplies, and act as his or her advocate to receive the best treatment. The biggest payoff comes from a unique bond you can have with your youngster and the joy you receive with every developmental accomplishment.
Do you need some assistance in parenting a child with high functioning autism or Asperger's? Click here to use Mark Hutten, M.A. as your personal parent coach.
• Anonymous said… My son (14) was on meds for 5 years and just last year I had him evaluated by an innovative health doctor and had a full blood work up done and he had some major deficiencies and was placed on high potency natural supplements and is completely off meds. I'm not saying it will work for everyone but he's been so much better. I had a therapist say something like this to me and I'll leave you with this... If your daughters kidneys were not working properly would you give her medicine to help their function? If the brain chemistry isn't working properly maybe it needs something to function better. And since I've done both... Maybe it's something we are just lacking that can correct that chemistry. Hope this helps.
• Anonymous said… A heavy metals detox! Which you can do at home. That's a HUGE one
• Anonymous said… did you notice an increase in inattention with the Zoloft? I did with my daughter and stopped it
• Anonymous said… Great idea to take time for yourself, and spend time with spouse and other children but in reality it doesn't happen.
• Anonymous said… Has anyone had success not putting their aspie with anxiety on meds? My daughter's (13) drs suggest meds for her and I'm not convinced. I'm very reticent on messing with her brain chemistry.
• Anonymous said… I understand sometimes it is very necessary but how can you be sure the is a chemical issue without tests? I have many friends who work is the child phsycology field who see the negative parts of medicine that out scares me. How long before you can see a difference with just therapy alone? My girl has made an improvment with therapy. She finally tried something new. She had me sign her up for a cheerleadeing class. She doesn't talk or look at them but she makes it in the door. That is a big deal for her
• Anonymous said… I was bullied into medicating my son from the school... After taking these meds for a period of time , he developed turettes .. I took him off them and eventually it subsided .. Sometimes your better knowing what your dealing with .
• Anonymous said… I would say no a child phycologist will help them much better.. medication just masks the problem but doesn't really deal with it properly and so many side effects or health problems from them down the line..I would definitely try more natural ways..diet screen time sleep etc it all really helps.
• Anonymous said… Medical cannabis oil, folks! That paired with therapy is what's life saving. As long as everyone votes the cure into office, its the cure to SOOO MANY things. Very much including autism. And something I learned... Is YOU need to provide all these services, if they aren't available to you for whatever reason. Do your research folks. :) YOU can help your child. YOU can be therapy for your child. The diet has A LOT to do with their behavior and anxiety. You are able to spend time with your spouse and other children. You just have to be smart with your time. And seriously, diet adjusted, great therapy, and not allowing the autism to be an excuse...you can live a normal life... Well, close to it. But what's really normal?
• Anonymous said… My son just diagnosed last April - just starting therapy August 30 ~ I have a comment for both comments - first one about asd results- yes they did take Asperger diagnosis away here as well and now grade by numbers 1-3 - 3 being more severe- I came out and ask what he is considered- she said - yes hfa/ Asperger - on one category he was rated at a 1 other category 2- they gave me a copy of Dsm-5 - so maybe that will help- then you can go look up your test results to see how he was scored- a lot of good speakers are out there- I have learned so much but still so much to learn-next question about meds- I wonder same thing- I've fought so hard not to give anything but my sweet boy says things daily against hisself - 😰- there's not one day now especially now that school is back in that he doesn't put hisself down or even threats to hisself-I'm feeling like lately I'm doing more harm than good- the first 2 days of school he just wanted to come home- he was sent to nurse to talk to nurses- pretty much we made the decision to make him stay- not even knowing if that was really what I should do- then finally he's been staying- so I ask him to night - you are happy now right? He says no- im really not happy- I just miss my home- and you and I still just don't want to be with those kids all day- so in his heart he's no better- he's just suppressing- and being forced into that situation- I just don't know what to do anymore- I'm so upset tonight- just feel broke - - maybe I'm hurting him so much more by not getting him on medication to help this anxiety and depression- he's just not being helped right now- 😓
• Anonymous said… My son takes zoloft and it works great
• Anonymous said… My son was diagnosed last September and the specialist told me they only diagnose now with ASD. None specific, I was annoyed as o need to know they name to find the right strategies.
• Anonymous said… My sons school kept throwing it out there that meds would be helpful. (He's 8) I said no. Even his Dr's have said no so far. The school just doesn't want to deal with him. I won't put him on anything until it's absolutely needed.
• Anonymous said… Struggling to find these services.
• Anonymous said… That's v frustrating for you. I don't like labels generally but they can be helpful. The blanket term of ASD has been used since DSM 5 (2013). The latest changes to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual was most dramatic with regard to ASD. You might try asking your doctors what the diagnosis used to be called eg "Before DSM 5, would this have been Aspergers" for example. ! Try googling the subject and see what comes up - if you acquaint yourself with some of the terminology and commentary it will help you feel more equipped and better able to undretsand whatthe doctors are saying. Hope this is helpful.All the best.
• Anonymous said… The diet has nothing to do with a food allergy besides that is poison for the body period! Heavy metals detox followed up with a gluten and casien free diet. High in B vitamins, Vitamin C, and Magnesium. Huge behavioral changes. Huge anxiety relief
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