Early Red Flags and Warning Signs of Autism (cont.)

Early Intervention, which is a state-run, federally-funded program for children 0-3 in some states and 0-5 in others, is offered at no cost to families in some states and based on a sliding scale in other states. Every county in the U.S. has an Early Intervention program. Parents need to be resourceful and seek out every available opportunity in their community or neighboring communities.

What would you say is the absolute most important first step a parent needs to take upon learning their child has autism?

Parents must take immediate action. The earlier (and more intense) the intervention, the better the outcome. Parents need to build a good team of doctors, clinicians, and educators and have the proper evaluations and reports in hand so they can get the services they need. You will need a good developmental profile of your child from a top-notch developmental expert so you can understand your child's strengths and challenges and begin to build on those strengths.

Another important thing is to take the time to really know and appreciate your child. Your child is still your child, and you're going to love him just the same. It's very important to be the parent and not always the therapist. Make time to be together and have a routine of singing, reading, or snuggling together-whatever works for you and your child.

Bottom line: Somehow, you must maintain your sense of humor. That's what will get you through the tough days. As devastating as it can be, there are many joyful moments. As a parent of a child with special needs, you look at the world differently, reprioritize what's important in your life, and appreciate the little things, especially the small accomplishments your child makes. You look at the world through a very different lens.

For additional information on autism, tune in to the autism podcast on MedicineNet.com: The Prevalence of Autism.

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