5 Things Parents Should Do After Their Child’s Autism Diagnosis

By Maureen Dillon, clinical social worker at The Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders

When parents come to The Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders, they often feel overwhelmed when we tell them their child has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In the days and weeks following a diagnosis, families experience a wide range of emotions, including fear, frustration, loneliness and confusion, to name a few.Family_son_smallerThese feelings can be intensified by the long list of things we recommend they do. As a clinical social worker, I talk with many families that are just starting to learn about autism and all the programs and services in the community that families need to access to get their child the help they need.  

Here are some suggestions for parents that have a child recently diagnosed with autism:

  • It’s common to feel a wide range of feelings, and it’s important to get support from caring family members and friends.
  • Sometimes couples find their partner seems to have a very different response, and this can be frustrating. People cope, grieve and adapt in different ways, so remember to be sensitive to each other’s differences and work together on some common goals for your child.
  • Start to read and learn more about autism. Autism Speaks has some great resources.
  • Write down your questions, and bring them to your child’s doctor, therapist, teacher or other helping professional.
  • Connect with other parents through classes and support groups, or at your child’s school.

At The Center, we offer many classes about autism, as well as a support group for families where we provide information and guidance. For example, we offer the Autism Education Series, a six-week class designed for families who have a child recently diagnosed with autism. The class is open to the whole community and is held three times a year. We have grandparents, aunts, uncles, significant others and friends attending along with parents so that the whole family can learn and support the child and parents.

Our support group meets monthly, and provides an opportunity for parents to connect with each other and talk about successes and challenges. It’s a chance to get advice from each other and teach each other. Learn more about these services.

It’s important that parents of children newly diagnosed with autism know they are not alone. You can connect to a community of other parents who are also trying to make sense of all that is happening with their child and navigate what can be a complex world of programs and therapies. The Center welcomes you to come and join us so we can learn together and support each other.

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Helpful Holiday Tips for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

The holiday season is a joyful time of the year, but it also can be stressful for kids with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Preparing and planning early for the holidays can help you relieve some of the holiday stress. Here are a few helpful tips from our partner, The Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

Provide concrete information for your child
• Provide a visual schedule of each day’s expectations. Include start times and end times.
• Use your smart phone or iPad when possible to find free apps including visual timers, “First This Then This” schedules, and personalized “social stories.”
• Explain what is both expected of your child and not expected.
• Provide opportunities to reward your child for expected behavior.

Provide information visually
• Take pictures of relatives and friends you will visit, and practice names.
• Video modeling is considered an evidenced-based way to teach your child. Take videos of how to unwrap a gift the right way, thank a family member, or greet new people. Role play with your child and practice ahead of time.
• Use pictures to help your child communicate or make choices of what they would like to have or say.

Reduce anxiety
• Compile a list of activities that can help your child fill his or her time wherever you go.
• Use rehearsal and role play to give children practice ahead of time in dealing with new social situations, or work together to write a “social story” that incorporates all the elements of an upcoming event or visit to better prepare them for that situation.
• If you are going to visit family or friends, make sure there is a quiet, calm place for retreat.
• Try to relax and have a good time. If you are tense, your child may sense that something isn’t right.
• Don’t shield your child from the extended family. Family members need to understand the challenges you face.

By Kelly McKinnon, MA, BCBA, Director of Behavior Intervention at The Center for Autism  & Neurodevelopmental Disorders

The Center for Autism  & Neurodevelopmental Disorders is located at 2500 Red Hill Ave, in Santa Ana. For more information, please call 949-267-0400 or visit www.thecenter4autism.org.

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Autism Resources Grow to Meet the Needs of OC Children

Autism continues to be one of the most prevalent topics in our community. While autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is not new, more children than ever are classified as autistic, partly explained by improved diagnosis and awareness. While there is no cure for autism, research shows that early diagnosis and intervention improve chances that the child will benefit from treatment.Check out the Q&A below to learn more about this unique condition, and where you and your family can go for support and treatment.

What is autism and how common is it?
According to Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. Currently, one in 88 children is estimated to be on the autism spectrum.

Over the last five years, scientists have identified a number of rare gene changes, or mutations, associated with autism. A small number of these are sufficient to cause autism by themselves. Most cases of autism, however, appear to be caused by a combination of autism risk genes and environmental factors influencing early brain development.

What are the signs of autism?
The following red flags may indicate your child is at risk for an autism spectrum disorder.

•No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by 6 months or thereafter
•No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions by nine months
•No babbling by 12 months
•No back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving by 12 months
•No words by 16 months
•No meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating) by 24 months
•Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age

If your child exhibits any of the above signs, please don’t delay in asking your pediatrician or family doctor for an evaluation.

How is autism diagnosed?
If you are concerned your child is at risk for autism, please speak with your physician. He/she may recommend setting up an appointment with a specialist, who can evaluate your child.

Where can Orange County families go for treatment?
In partnership with UC Irvine, Chapman University College of Educational Studies and CHOC Children’s,  The Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders (formerly For OC Kids) is a leader in education, assessment, diagnosis and care coordination for children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. In a first-of-its-kind public/private partnership, the Thompson Family Foundation and the Children and Families Commission of Orange County in 2012 provided $14.8 million to create a new vision, led by Dr. Joseph Donnelly, pediatric neurologist and director of The Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders. This investment allowed The Center to expand from a medical focus to a multi-disciplinary practice, offering a full range of treatment services.

What types of treatment does The Center offer?
The Center offers a complete range of high-quality diagnostic and treatment services to children, adolescents and young adults from birth to age 22, including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), social skills classes, psychology, psychiatry, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, and a wellness program. It strives to serve all children and families, and accepts most types of insurance.

What types of resources does The Center offer for parents?
The Center offers a multitude of parent education classes and support groups, including monthly technology workshops, individualized education program (IEP) planning seminars, and an autism education series. Additionally, The Center is home to F.A.S.T. (Families and Schools Together), a unique program designed to build bridges with schools and help parents navigate the educational system.

The Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders is located at 2500 Red Hill Ave, in Santa Ana. For more information, please call 949-267-0400 or visit www.thecenter4autism.org.

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