Every year, more children are being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The number of reported cases were as follows:
In 2018, there is one case for every 59 kids. It is a good sign that the medical community has gotten better at diagnosing children with autism. At the same time, it can be confusing and difficult for some parents to deal with the prospect that their child may be on the autism spectrum.
That said, it is vital that parents get their children the help they need as soon as possible. The sooner a child is diagnosed with ASD, the sooner that child can get services that will help her or him function in everyday life. This is especially important considering some of the more alarming statistics about Autism. For example, 35 percent of young adults with autism have not gone to college or been employed. In fact, only 16.8 percent of disabled people in America currently have a job. These problems can be avoided or mitigated if you use the resources available to children with ASD. It is tough to deal with disability, but smart parenting that utilizes the resources available can ensure that a child has a bright future.
The first step to getting your child help is determining whether or not your child has autism. The earlier children are diagnosed, the more help they can get with basic tasks that they may otherwise have difficulty adjusting to. There are a number of symptoms of ASD, the severity of which will depend on your child, but you will want to pay special attention to any problems your child has with language or socialization. Another key sign of autism is if your child sticks to patterns and reacts negatively to new actions or stimuli.
Autism may appear in any child, but it is most prevalent under certain circumstances. The most notable determinant is family medical history. If you or a family member is on the autism spectrum, your child is more likely to have the condition. Additionally, if you had children later in life, this can also lead to an increased risk of ASD.
If you think your child may have autism, it is worth visiting a doctor to get a professional take. Depending on the doctor’s experience and specialization, she or he will either be able to diagnose your child or recommend a better-suited professional. It is best to get this test by the time your child is two years old. At this age, there is a good chance the test will be able to correctly diagnose him. You may send your child when at a younger age, but keep in mind that the test may not be as accurate. Additionally, though the test will still be accurate when the child is older, it is important to diagnose your child as soon as you are able to.
You can also get a diagnosis for your child through the state. Children who are at least three years old will be able to get a diagnosis through the school system, whether or not they are actually enrolled in school. For children younger than that, you will need to go to the local early intervention system.
Although the state handles autism diagnoses, the federal government has a program designed to help parents understand their options for getting their children diagnosed and treated. This program is called the Early Child Technical Assistance Center (ECTACenter).
There are options for a child who has not yet been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). If the child has specific developmental needs that may or may not be a cause of the disorder — for instance, if they have trouble talking — then you can get treatment for these specific difficulties.
Once your child has been diagnosed, you can begin to get the help that is best suited to their needs. However, keep in mind that there is no cure for autism itself. Instead, treatment is designed to help your child function in society. There are three types of treatments that the specialist may recommend:
Pharmaceutical treatments cannot treat ASD itself, but they can help alleviate specific symptoms. Nutritional treatments also vary in their effectiveness. It is controversial in the medical community, but some specialists believe that making sure children get the right levels of vitamins can help them manage their ASD. Since this method’s effectiveness varies from child to child, it may be worth trying, but you will want to gauge for yourself how effective you feel the treatments are.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Research Council have both found the behavioral approach to be effective. There are a broad range of behavioral treatment styles, but commonly they will focus on positive reinforcement and simplified lessons that allow the child to methodically learn new skills.
Which treatment the specialist recommends may vary based on their own experience, but it should also be suited to your child’s needs. For instance, if your child reacts negatively to stimuli, sensory integration theory is a type of behavioral treatment that can help. There are also treatments designed for helping older children who need to learn how to get a job.
Some parents are reluctant to get children the help they need, either because they do not want to admit their child may have ASD, or because they are not comfortable having others take care of their child when the child is still young.
Getting ASD treatment for your child is important for the sake of the child, but it is also important for the family as a whole. If you have other children, you will want to set time aside to be with them individually, and you also need to take into account the needs that your spouse or work may require from you. Beyond just getting help from specialists, your child may also be able to join a support group. This allows them to interact with children who are like them, while also giving you the time to focus on other areas of your life.
It is not selfish to get help from others. Instead, it allows you to live a balanced, healthy life. If the family has strong relationships with each other, that allows your child with ASD to grow up in a happier and healthier environment.
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