Autism Diagnosis: 5 Things All Parents Should Know About the Spectrum
According to estimates from the CDC, around 1 in 44 children have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It’s more common than many people realize, and there are still so many misunderstandings and misinformation out there. That’s why parents should know more about the spectrum, including whether to get their child an evaluation.
If you’re a parent of a child with autism or if you’re wondering what signs to look for, we’ll provide you with the information you need. Keep reading to learn about receiving an autism diagnosis for your child and more on the spectrum.
1. There Are Support Networks to Help
Each year, we learn more about the autism spectrum. That also means there are more resources than ever on ASD and support for parents.
Even if you’re the only parent in your friend group that may have a child with autism, you’re certainly not alone. Online communities on social media platforms like Facebook help parents connect with others that can help them out.
These communities are full of useful information, such as what you need to know, how to find help with questions, autism tips, and much more. Find support groups in your area or online and create a network.
2. Not All Autism Is the Same
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is classified as a developmental disability and is caused by differences in the brain. Commonalities in people diagnosed with ASD include difficulty with interaction and communication, different ways of learning, repetitive or limited behaviors and interests, and different ways of paying attention.
That said, one child diagnosed with ASD can look and act differently from another child with autism. One of the first facts you must learn as a parent is that not all autism is the same, and that’s why it’s a spectrum. ASD covers a large scope of brain development disorders.
Additionally, problems might be mild, moderate, or severe.
Some conditions considered ASD include:
- Asperger’s syndrome
- Autistic disorder
- Childhood disintegrative disorder
- Pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)
Not all autism is easily identifiable or seen, which is part of the reason there’s still a lot of misinformation concerning a diagnosis. There are still many people that assume people with autism will have specific habits or features, often brought on by stereotypes. Unfortunately, the media often portrays autistic people in a harmful way and perpetuates these ideas.
That’s why it’s crucial to start learning or re-learning the truths of what we understand about autism.
3. Children With Autism Process Information Differently
A child on the spectrum processes noises, lights, sensations, and more differently. Kids with autism may feel overwhelmed in places such as grocery stores or malls and react to those sensations with extreme anxiety or by having a meltdown.
Those with autism simply process information in different ways. Sudden, loud noises such as the school bell or fire alarm can hurt their ears and cause stress. Flickering lights may bother them more than other children. Understanding more about these triggers can help both parents and children.
Sensory toys are one way to help kids on the spectrum calm down.
As a parent, you may experience people giving you dirty looks and making assumptions if your child throws a tantrum in a public place. Unfortunately, this is commonly due to people being uninformed about children with autism and how they may behave. Many automatically assume it’s somehow the parent’s fault.
This can be tough on parents. Hopefully, we can continue to spread the word about autism and correct misunderstandings. In the meantime, it helps to have a support group there that “gets it.”
4. You’ll Have to Set Reasonable Expectations
The more you learn about autism, the more you can set reasonable expectations. There will be challenges and misunderstandings, but the more you learn about your child and how they process information, the easier it will get. Remember, you don’t have to go at this alone; you can find support groups.
We don’t yet live in a society that fully understands or accommodates people on the spectrum. Kids with autism may have to work harder to act like their neurotypical classmates and friends.
Discover what’s achievable for your child and how to help them succeed. Break goals down into reasonable steps.
Additionally, remember that those with autistic spectrum disorder thrive on routine. Spontaneous trips and sudden changes can cause anxiety, stress, and more.
5. Not Everyone Will Understand
You’ll likely receive unsolicited advice from friends, relatives, co-workers, etc., on handling matters relating to your child and situation. Often, the people offering this advice don’t understand what you’re going through as they likely know little about ASD.
People might tag you on Facebook when any article appears on their feed about autism. While many are trying to help, they’re offering advice about a matter they know little about.
These instances might wear on you after a time, so it’s okay to say so. Calmly but firmly state that they can’t understand the situation and that if you want advice, you’ll ask for it.
Take advice from professionals, your support group, and others that are in a similar situation to you, as they understand what you’re going through.
The First Step Is an Autism Diagnosis
This is only a little of what parents should know about Autism Spectrum Disorder. Learning about ASD is a continual process, but you’re not alone. Create a support network, take a deep breath, and set reasonable expectations.
If you’re a parent and suspect your child might be on the spectrum, the first step is to get an autism diagnosis. Our specialists here at Developmental Pediatrics offer a variety of assessments for children and preteens. Our Texas practice offers consultations and evaluations.
Fill out our new patient form to get started.