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Although this information is focused on Autism, it applies to other special needs. For the purpose of this blog, I’m focusing on autism.

When you suspect your child has autism. What happens to parents is a sense of being “overwhelmed”; add in lack of knowledge and “what do we do first.” For the purposes of this post, I decided to offer a simple checklist from a parent’s perspective–a parent who has stumbled through those beginning steps.

1. Contact your local Independent Autism Society in your area, not a government agency. Ask for a contact name of a local parents group. This local parents group should have several knowledgeable parents who have already navigated the system before you. And these are the people you want to talk to because what they’ve learned the hard way, and will steer you down the right road making your already stressful life much easier. These parents cannot take on your load and do for you, no one can. What they can and will do is provide you with the tools/correct information you need, which will include:

a)     Who to contact to get your child diagnosed. Costs, different options, where to go for diagnosis. Private clinic or government-funded (depending on your location). Who to avoid and why?

b)    Credible therapists, consultants and autism programming. What options do you have? And please remember with any autistic child involved in a credible therapy, there will be documented progress. If an autistic child has made little to no progress, there is something wrong with the child’s therapy.

c)      Tax Credits – very important. ***Depending on your area. Once your child has been diagnosed. You should be entitled to a certain tax credit. Your local parents group will be up to date on this for your area. You’ll need this money to start a therapy program.

d)    Government Funding/ Grants – How much is it? And is there any available in your area? How do you access it?

e)     How do you run a therapy program? Who to hire? Who to stay away from.

f)      What about inclusion of alternative therapy? Diet? Holistic Approach?

g)     Autism in the Public School System: How do you include your child’s therapy in school?

h)    How does your local school district support your child’s unique needs?

And last I thought I’ll leave you with this warning: Slap on your thick skin cream. Because you’ll be flooded by people, strangers, family, friends, who’ll offer, sell, or know of someone providing some miracle cure to your autistic child. When you say NO. Some will lash out with “you’re a horrible parent for denying your child this chance.” It’s happened to just about every parent with an autistic child.  Brush it off and let it go, and remember you know what is best for your child.

Sometimes we forget as we struggle with our busy schedules that not every parents load is the same. And every one of us is different. Some parents won’t recognize the signs of autism, and many have questioned their family doctor only to be told, “he’s a boy, or he/she’s just a little delayed, or your child will grow out of it.”  How many parents do you know who ran into this same obstacle with the medical community that delayed their child’s opportunity for early intervention?

I will continue this series on Autism, with – Autism in Public Schools