Many parents, including myself, have kids – or know of kids – who are on the autism spectrum. It’s a diverse challenge, with no true explanation and no concrete solution.
It is estimated that 1 in 68 kids are on the autism spectrum.
This is a huge increase in the past 40 years. It requires that we rethink how we educate our children. It also requires a better awareness by teachers and parents that a child may be autistic. The signs are subtle – lack of eye contact, delayed speech, and difficulty with sensory processing are reliable signs that intervention would be helpful. There isn’t any real consensus on the cause of autism. But there is a strong belief that the best remedy is early intervention. Kids who may be on the spectrum benefit from having speech and physical therapy as early as possible.
For families with kids on the spectrum, early intervention is the best solution.
For parents with kids on the spectrum, therapy is a great start. Therefore, it is vital to identify the signs that a child is on the spectrum. Delay will lead to future problems. Many schools are now much better equipped to teach kids with autism.
If you have a child on the spectrum:
- Try to have it diagnosed early.
- Provide your child’s school with the diagnosis, and demand that the school set up Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings.
- Bring the child’s therapists to these meetings, as they are often used to determine the child’s academics and accommodations.
- If the school seeks to set the IEP meeting on a day on which you are not available, demand that they change the IEP meeting date.
All students are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This act requires that students on the spectrum be given accommodations. This is a powerful tool, and it’s been my experience that schools will work hard to comply with the ADA, if you show that you know your rights.
In addition, there are multiple support groups to help parents with children on the autism spectrum. National groups such as Autism Speaks publish articles on a regular basis. Closer to home, there are local groups.
In Gainesville, Florida, for example, there is the Center for Autistic Related Disorders (CARD), which is through the University of Florida. In Gainesville, and on the national level, CARD helps parents by providing ideas and resources. For kids with autism, there is also a growing number of speech and physical therapists willing to help.
In the family law arena, courts can consider the special needs of children both in any parenting plans, and in calculating child support. Ensuring a young child receives speech therapy can be as important as the health insurance which helps pay for it.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. And don’t be too proud to get help.