What to do when your child has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
By Geneva Kearns, MA, BCBA
When a child is diagnosed with ASD, parents are often left with more questions than answers.
For many families, there is a feeling of overwhelm and confusion, and it is difficult to understand what this diagnosis will mean for their child’s future. And while there is no known cure for ASD, there is certainly reason to have hope.
What we know for certain is that the sooner your child starts receiving services, the better their outcomes are likely to be.
While no two children with an ASD diagnosis are exactly the same, and the path forward will look different for each child, there are some universal next steps that each family can take after receiving a diagnosis for their child, in order to set their child up for the best possible success going forward.
1. Determine what services are available and appropriate for your child
The medical provider who conducted your child’s ASD evaluation will likely have included recommendations for services that your child can benefit from in their evaluation report.
Most often, these services will include:
- Speech and language therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Applied behavior analysis (ABA) services – sometimes referred to as “behavioral therapy”
2. Determine how your child will access these services (i.e. through private insurance vs. county/state-funded agencies)
Most states now have mandates that require insurance companies to cover the services that are necessary for individuals with an ASD diagnosis. Contacting your insurance company is a good first step in finding out what services your child is eligible to receive given their diagnosis (use the phone number on the back of your insurance card).
You can also look up any local county and state-funded agencies (e.g. services through the Dept. of Developmental Services) that provide services to children with special needs and contact them about what services they offer to children with ASD.
3. Find the best ABA provider for your child and your family
Not all ABA providers are created equal.
+ Some focus on early intervention services whereas others provide services to children of all ages and levels of ability.
+ Some provide services in a clinic setting whereas others offer services that are home-based.
+ Some offer parent training programs and others focus only on 1:1 intervention with the child.
It is important to find a provider that will be able to create a program that is tailored to your child’s individual needs, that will be supervised and monitored by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and that will utilize practices and procedures that are evidence-based.
Click here to read about what questions you may want to ask your ABA provider.
4. Get started on the IEP process
You should also contact your local school district, or your child’s current school placement if they are already enrolled, to begin the IEP process.
The IEP is an Individualized Education Plan that will be created by a team of educators and specialists from the school district in order to ensure that your child is receiving the support and additional services needed to succeed in their educational placement. Most, if not all, of these services and supports can be provided in the public school system and will be paid for by the school district.