Help for Children with Autism

What Every Parent Should Know

Only a decade ago Autism was believed to affect less than 1 in 1000 children. Now that more parents, health care professionals and educators are aware of Autism’s broad spectrum and early signs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that approximately 1 in 150 children are diagnosed.

If Autism does not impact your family directly, statistics suggest that you are likely to encounter a child with Autism in your neighborhood or at your child’s school. Take a moment to educate yourself about the Autism Spectrum. An informed community is best equipped to offer friendship to children on the Autism spectrum and to advocate for appropriate educational and health care services.

Look for Autism Signs and Symptoms.

Since early intervention has proven value, parents should be mindful of Autism’s early signs. This is particularly important if there is a family history of Autism or language delay. Some of the more common signs include: Limited interaction with caregivers, problems expressing needs, difficulty transitioning from one task to another, echoing what others say, repeating actions over and over, and reacting strongly to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound. If you are unsure whether a problem exists, consider it an opportunity to learn more about your child’s overall development.

Schedule Autism Testing with a Qualified Professional.

Do not allow lingering questions about your child’s development to go unanswered. If you observe signs of Autism, make an appointment with your pediatrician or a licensed psychologist who provides developmental testing. A thorough examination will answer questions about Autism, and indicate whether other developmental needs should be addressed. Then NeuroDevelopment Center in Fort Collins uses the ADOS and other standardized instruments that have been developed in Children’s Hospitals.

Successful Autism Therapy Involves Teamwork.

When a child is diagnosed with Autism or developmental delay it is wise to begin interventions as soon as possible. Since difficulties tend to involve several related areas, such as communication, learning, sensory-motor skills, and behavior, effective treatment requires specialists to work together. Parents should insist that their child’s therapists and educators work as a team.

Children on the Autism Spectrum Learn and Develop.

Some children on the Autism spectrum are effectively non-verbal when they reach school age. Others with higher-functioning Autism or Asperger’s Disorder may have a larger vocabulary than most of their peers, yet struggle to comprehend information that is abstract. Some children on the Autism spectrum learn best when they receive support within a mainstream classroom. Others need a setting structured around an intensive language and behavioral program. In most cases, educational objectives for a child on the Autism spectrum will encompass both functional skills, such as communication and social behavior, and academic learning. These objectives are recorded within an Individualized Educational Plan (I.E.P.) and monitored by the child’s case manager. Parents can play an important role in their child’s educational plan by attending school meetings and asking questions.

Children with Autism Experience Love and Affection.

If only more people could see the relationships that develop between children with Autism spectrum disorders and their families. This is one of the joys of working in a developmental clinic. In order to see the bond, however, one can’t be limited by the images of “relationship” that instinctively come to mind. Often the behaviors we associate with affection, such as a spontaneous hug or kiss, do not give children on the Autism spectrum a pleasant sensation. While it is normal for parents of children on the Autism spectrum to experience frustration when bonding does not occur in the typical way, other means are eventually found to experience emotional connection. Soothing interactions may involve listening to music, engaging the child with a favorite activity, playing together with a pet, or applying deep pressure to a part of the child’s body.

Autism Spectrum Disorders are Lifelong.

While some parents report dramatic recovery in response to a particular therapy, there is no medically accepted cure. Signs are evident before age three and continue to some degree throughout the lifespan. The level of independence achieved in adulthood is linked to several factors, including reasoning ability, other psychiatric symptoms, and the child’s exposure to educational and therapeutic interventions. Some adults on the spectrum require close supervision. Others learn vocational skills, but need help dealing with situations that are outside of their daily routine. There are also adults with high functioning Autism in our community who are fully independent. Many of these individuals graduate from college, find success in their careers and start families of their own.

Parents of Children with Autism Also Benefit from Support.

Parents of children on the spectrum experience the same worry, joy, frustration and pride that other parents do. In addition, they also face extraordinary challenges that may arise around the clock and test the limits of patience and positive thinking. The Autism Society of Larimer County and the Autism Society of Colorado publicize support groups in and around Fort Collins that bring families together for education and friendship. Foothills Gateway is another vital resource in Fort Collins that facilitates case management, respite care and vocational programs.