THIS SITE WAS WRITTEN FOR THE BEGINNERS
PARENTS OF NEWLY DIAGNOSED CHILDREN
You may be in a panic state when you first research all the information about Autism and Aspergers. The internet is wonderful when it comes to obtaining information quickly, but if there is a lot about a topic, it is easy to become confused and overwhelmed. The days of no treatment for Autism are gone. The days of an overwhelming number of treatments are upon us. The earlier in life you start the treatments, the better the outcome.
I am sequencing this website by order of the importance of first steps to take. As your child progresses through life, funding will be very important. There are a lot of special services and therapies which will be costly. As I discuss each type of service or source of information, I will provide you with a hyperlink to that site.
In California, Regional Centers provide funding and supportive services throughout a Developmentally Disabled person's life. The schools are responsible for providing Special Education for your child from age 3. The funding for education related therapies will then revert to the schools. Many schools have wonderful programs which they administer in house, but not all. The school districts are happy to work with your child since it makes their job much easier, later, as your child matures. When your child is an adult, and is still disabled, the Regional Center or equivalent will be there to help.
REGIONAL CENTER EVALUATION
California Regional Centers are nonprofit private corporations that contract with the Department of Developmental Services to provide or coordinate services and supports for individuals with developmental disabilities. The thing to remember is that the Regional Centers offer all sort of supportive services to your young one throughout their life. If you live in California, the California Department of Development will lead you to the office closest to you and offer other important information.
If you live in another state, look on your state government's website for Developmental Disabilities, and it should take you to your equivalent of our services here. For example, when I searched the NY site, it gave me OMRDD as their branch of developmental disabilities services.
School districts have departments which handle special education for their area. If you are starting out, with a diagnosis which was accepted by Regional Center or Dept. of Developmental Services, and your child had been receiving speech therapy or occupational therapy, the school districts may still want to do their own evaluation, to determine what services are needed at this time. Their evaluation will serve as a basis for the IEP which is a contract and a justification for providing specified services for specified number of hours. Both school districts and parents are interested in the child's progress, and if the parents see no progress, or decline in competence, the parents can ask for another meeting with the school and another IEP.
For my home base, in Orange County, California the best School District Special Education website provides information about our local district offices. The same department also provides low cost lectures for parents and educators.
PARENT SUPPORT GROUPS
Parent support groups will become very important to you. You can get in person, and on line, information which will help answer many of your questions, for free. Also, the support groups help you to stop feeling so alone and overwhelmed.
In my area, these on line services arose out of local support groups. You will find good, up to date information, as well as meetings and lectures available in our area. If you are not from this area, you might find local links by searching for Autism Support Groups +closest major town +state. Here are my favorite local links:
ON LINE INFORMATION
For descriptions and explanations about Autism and Aspergers you can turn to a number of national organization websites.
BEST PRACTICES - PARENT INVOLVEMENT
For best results, be an active and avid participant in your child's therapies. One of the reasons that we are seeing so much more progress with the new treatments, is because they are started early, age 2, and involve the child's caretakers. Since our little ones are so hard to engage and teach, it is important that everyone is on the same page and is responding to the child in a similar manner, and shows the same expectations.
RDI http://www.rdiconnect.com/ are great for pre-verbal little ones. They engage the children in a playful manner, and break through the anxiety around interacting with the environment. The slow steps, deliberate programming and repetition lead the way to mastery of important skills to be able to continue working with other adults. Both are parent based programs.
Another type of a program which has been around for many years and has been researched is Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). It is a behavior modification program which breaks tasks into smallest pieces to help with mastery and compliance. Teachers will not be able to teach your child in the future, if your child refuses to comply with requests or directions. A good ABA program will teach you to work with your child so that there is consistency in the demands of his/her environment.
Speech and Occupational Therapy (OT) will also become very important in your child's development. These are offered by a variety of clinics in your area.
SPECIAL DIETS - FOOD ADDITIVES
There are a number of special diets and food additives which have helped some of the children. Jaquelyn McCandless, MD has written a book about these issues. In her book, Children with Starving Brains, she describes the problems and treatments and why they work.
SOCIAL SKILLS GROUPS
As our young people grow and mature, they may be able to speak, but they lack the flexibility to process complex social interaction information. This leads to an inability to fit in socially and to work in an environment where other people are present. Social skill groups try to address some of those issues and teach skills which are not automatic for our young ones.