Autism Diagnosis: Where do we start?

"We've just discovered that our 2 year old daughter is autistic.  We're not sure where to even start in dealing with this. My wife and I are feeling a bit stunned and overwhelmed."

If you have just received a diagnosis of autism, you are most likely feeling very anxious about your child’s future. The first step is to arm yourself with as much information about this disorder as you can. Make sure you find this information from credible sources -- and don’t believe everything you read!

Although your daughter has a diagnosis of autism, her abilities are going to vary from any other child with autism. There are some key features of autism that probably led to the diagnosis, but how they affect your daughter will be as individual as any child. 

Based on your child’s needs, there are some assessments and professionals you should consider. Communication is a common problem area for children with autism. Contact a speech therapist to assist you in evaluating your daughter’s strengths and needs. Finding the appropriate communication system will help her tremendously across all environments.

Your child may be verbal, but need some training in initiating communication. If she is non-verbal, there are a variety of communication systems, sign-language, PECS (using pictures and symbols), or communication boards that can be employed.

Have an occupational therapist assess your child for sensory dysfunction. Autistic children sometimes have difficulty taking in sensory information and organizing it for future use. Planning a sensory integration program can help your daughter organize her sensory input and reduce sensitivity to a variety of sensory information.

Also, create a routine within your home, and to the extent possible, don’t vary from that routine.

Autism isn’t a life sentence. Prepare yourself to turn to others for support. Join a local support group and/or an online message board where you can ask other parents for information. Be willing to learn from others, and be willing to accept assistance from others. Also, help the rest of your family learn what they can about autism.

Lastly, be an advocate for your child. You know your daughter better than anyone else, and no one will love her like you do.




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