1) Truth Your Instincts
If you think your child has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), then you are probably correct. You are frontline to your child's needs and observe them daily. Feel confident because you know your child better than anyone else. If your instincts tell you that something is wrong with your child or if your child's developmental milestones are delayed in your opinion, then you have just cause to request an evaluation for ASD. Continue to monitor your child's development and try not to deny their deficits or compensate for them. Remember, your child will grow up and needs to learn to function daily on their own. It is ok to compare your child's early developmental milestones to sibling and take notes of similarities and differences. What you observe as developmental challenges are valid about your children's growth and functioning.
2) Request an Evaluation
Talk to your pediatrician. They have a wealth of information about developmental social disorders. You can also request an evaluation from your public school district, an autism center, or a psychologist. A psychologist will conduct a thorough and comprehension behavior evaluation of your child. I know that the waiting lists are far too long, but an evaluation must be done in order to properly diagnose ASD. This will include tests that are specific to symptoms of ASD and behavior observations of your child. You can help with that evaluation by keeping track of your child's day-to-day behaviors.
3) ASD Symptoms
Deficits in social communication and restrictive, repetitive behavior patterns are the two criteria for ASD. To confirm your instincts, just ask yourself a few questions for example,
4) Early Childhood Education
Children with ASD need specific therapies in order to function at school. These interventions need to come first prior to attending school. You want your children to be successful in school and behavior modifications using therapy, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA) need to take priority. ABA clinicians work 1-to-1 with children to improve their social and emotional skills that will follow them in the real world. Other important interventions include speech/language therapy and occupational and physical therapy. Collectively, all 3 interventions will improve your child's language development, social skills, daily living, intellectual abilities, and help to manage sensory issues.
5) High or Low Functioning ASD
This is actually not important. It only makes parents feel better about the condition which is actually misleading. It is better to focus on the type of support that individuals with ASD need, how much, and how often. The variability in these services is not conditioned upon whether or not they are "low or high functioning," but how their deficits interfere in their daily living. Change your focus to developing treatment plans or IEPs for interventions and services instead of whether or not your child functions with a low or high level of ASD symptoms. Remember, Asperger's is no longer diagnosed.
6) Do Not Wait to Act
Once your instincts have been confirmed with a diagnosis of ASD for your child, do not wait to contact your nearest public early childhood center even if you plan to home school or enroll in private school. Your child is entitled to special education services and should receive them. The longer you wait, however, keep in mind that is time taken from your child receiving special education services and other interventions. It also takes specialists to help you to learn how to manage your child's delays because parents have a hard time knowing what to do to work with their child's unique needs.
7) Parental Mental Health
Being a parent is not easy and your mental health is important. Having a child with a disability causes anxiety, depression, and feelings of shame, guilt, confusion, and exhaustion. Seeking treatment, researching best practices, and learning to navigate the special education process makes it hard to remain positive while living with your special needs child. Find parent groups for ASD online and in person for meet-ups, connect with other parents through parenting programs, and work with a therapist who can teach you to reduce your stress. Most of all, find small improvements in your child joyful when they happen. ASD is not a terminal illness but a different way of learning for you and your child.