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Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center

Tips for Parenting a Child With Autism

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1. Learn All You Can About Autism continued...

Because autism symptoms and behaviors often change over time, treatment strategies are tailored to the child's needs and available family resources. In general, however, children with autism respond best to highly structured and specialized treatment. A program that addresses helping parents and improving communication, social, behavioral, adaptive, and learning aspects of a child's life will be most successful.

Talk to your doctor about the best autism treatments and goals for educational services, so you and your child can take advantage of all available resources. Read all you can on autism so you understand the symptoms and behaviors and the differences in medications or alternative therapies. Communicate with other professionals and parents and learn from those who've crossed this bridge before you -- as they share insights into common autism concerns. In addition, become very familiar with public policies so you can be your child's advocate in gaining the best education and care possible. Make sure, for example, that plans (504 or IEP) are in place for your child to receive therapies at school.

2. Get a Strong Social Network

Parenting a child with any chronic illness is emotional; it affects every part of your being. But the day-to-day care of children with autism is especially stressful because of the lack of essential social interaction and communication between the child and adult. Making sure your child gets the help he needs can also pose a challenge, depending on whether quality support services are available in your area. At the same time, you are likely to have ongoing worries about your child's prognosis and long-term well-being. For all these reasons, you need to find strong social support for yourself, as well as for your child.

Gathering your support network involves knowing ahead of time whom you can call for different types of support, even for emergencies, including:

  • Emotional: A close friend or family member who is a confidant and whom you  trust with your most personal feelings and concerns
  • Social: A friend or colleague you enjoy being with and who helps you survive disappointments and shares your victories
  • Informational: Your child's doctor, teachers, therapists, or other caregivers you can ask for advice on major decisions regarding his or her treatment
  • Practical: A neighbor or close friend who will help you out in a pinch.
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