Once your child or loved one has been medically diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, it can be an overwhelming, confusing and intimidating time in your life. We’ve come up with a few things to do and know as they begin their life-changing therapy journey.
1. What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism is a bio-neurological developmental disability that generally appears before the age of 3. It impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction, communication skills, and cognitive function. Individuals with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities. Present day, 1 in 54 children are diagnosed with ASD. Autism Spectrum Disorder is diagnosed four times more often in boys than girls and its prevalence is not affected by race, region, or socio-economic status.
2. What are the most common forms of therapy that are prescribed for Autism Spectrum Disorder?
The 3 most commonly prescribed forms of therapy for children who have just been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder are Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy and ABA Therapy:
* Speech Therapy: Speech therapy is the treatment of communication problems and speech disorders. Speech therapy techniques are used to improve communication skills and focuses on expressive and receptive vocabulary, social language skills, as well as feeding and swallowing therapy just to name a few. This form of therapy is performed by Speech Language Pathologists.
* Occupational Therapy: Occupational therapy works to strengthen the brain-muscle connection involved in completing everyday tasks such as hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and much more. This form of therapy is performed by licensed Occupational Therapists.
* ABA Therapy: ABA therapy is an applied science devoted to developing procedures which will produce observable changes in behavior. ABA Therapy focuses on self-care such as showering and toileting, motor and social skills as well as many other skills. This form of therapy is performed by Board Certified Behavioral Analysts in collaboration with certified Registered Behavioral Technicians.
Be sure to visit the “Our Program” page on our site to learn more.
3. Contact your insurance provider immediately to ensure ABA, Speech and Occupational Therapy is covered under your current plan. In addition, ask the provider to send you a list of therapy clinics that are in-network and provide all 3 services.
4. Make an appointment to schedule a tour and evaluation of the ABA, Speech and Occupational therapy providers you think best meet the needs of your child on the Spectrum.
* Research, research, research! Research each clinic you intend to visit, narrow your planned visits down based on information you can gather online. Look at reviews for each of the clinics, look at the clinics social media sites, view each clinics website but most importantly call and speak with an Admissions or Intake Coordinator to ensure the clinic is a good fit.
* Compile a list of questions to ask your tour guide. There are many resources online available to help with this. Have at least 10 - 15 questions at minimum prepared to ask your tour guide prior to your child's evaluation and tour. Be sure to check back in the coming weeks for a list of questions to ask during your tour and evaluation.
* Most importantly, make sure the clinic provides the essential needs your child or loved one on the Autism Spectrum requires. If prescribed and or recommended, ensure the clinics you visit provide in-house Speech, Occupational and ABA therapy services all under one roof.
5. You’re not alone, join social groups online and in person for support.
* Find social media groups online such as the Houston Area Autism Resource Support Group on Facebook and others like it. Attend in-person support groups in your community and speak with other parents who’s child is currently in therapy or has received therapy in the past. Ask their opinion and recommendations on clinics they’ve used in the past or have an awareness of to ensure you have all the knowledge and options available to make a sound decision on which clinic is best suited to fulfill your child’s therapy needs.
* Get your family members involved as early as possible! There are many resources available for family members of children on the Autism Spectrum. It truly does take a village full of love, care, compassion and support to ensure your special little one has all the help, care and support they'll need, in clinic and at home, while they're on their beautiful life-changing journey.