Parents and Autism

How do I get a diagnosis for my child?

The first priority for your autistic child should be getting a diagnosis. An autism diagnosis is necessary to access educational supports and therapeutic supports for your child. Diagnosis will typically be accompanied by a diagnostic report outlining recommended supports depending on the child’s support needs. Autism can be pursued publicly or privately. It can only be diagnosed by a psychologist, psychiatrist, developmental pediatrician or a child neurologist.  For more information on pursuing a diagnosis, click here.

How do I secure a school place for my child?

After diagnosis, the first priority for your child should be finding a school place for them. Given the diverse support needs of the autistic community, autistic children may attend special schools, autism classes within mainstream schools or mainstream classes with additional supports, which is discussed further here.

Bunreacht na hÉireann guarantees an education to each and every Irish citizen, regardless of their personal background and circumstances, a right which is backed up even further by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. As such, you have a number of bodies to appeal to if your child’s needs are not being met as outlined here.

 

I’m confused about the terminology being used about autism.

It’s very understandable to get overwhelmed by the language used to describe autism and relevant supports as much of the information provided by autism is written in a medical context which may be difficult to understand, especially given the many acronyms used! 

Check our glossary of terms here to learn more about various common phrases related to autism, educational supports and relevant professionals. 

What Interventions Are Available For Autism?

For a long time autism was understood through the medical model in terms of deficits. As a result, “Does autism have a cure?” is a common question. However, the question is based on a flawed understanding of autism. There is no cure for autism because it is not an illness. It is a lifelong condition which you are born with. It is a fundamental part of how a person thinks (which brings positives as well as challenges) and many autistic people do not desire to be cured but understood, accepted and supported in reaching their personal potential.

Some therapies can support a person in overcoming certain barriers presented by the condition – but they should not be confused with a cure. Listed are a few common therapies that are known to be beneficial for autistic people:

Play Therapy – allows autistic children to grow in areas of self-expression, communication, and social skills in an environment involving playing with toys that the child likes.

Occupational Therapy – helps individuals learn everyday actions or activities such as learning to button a shirt. This therapy can be geared towards a home, school, or work environment.

Speech and Language Therapy – helps individuals learn how to communicate more effectively, whether verbal or nonverbal, and can involve reviewing facial emotions, gestures, or using pictures or symbols to communicate.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – involves thinking about one’s thoughts and what feelings are attached to it. Studies have shown that the use of CBT had decreased levels of anxiety in autistic children as well as improved social skills.

Equine Therapy – an intervention that involves completing activities with a horse such as mounting the horse, grooming the horse, and controlling the horses movement, which can help improve behavioral and social communication skills.

Although there are a number of beneficial therapies for autistic people, there are a few misconceived treatments that are not proven to help autistic people improve their daily functioning:

Bleaching

GcMAF (injections from blood cells)

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (uses oxygen in a pressurized chamber)

Stem Cell therapy

One can spot fake treatments if they seek to “cure” autism, lack empirical evidence, claim to take a short amount of time for interventions to work, or if it is based on a “miracle”, “faith”, or “trust”. There is no cure for autism and anyone who presents one is promoting an unregulated, unsubstantiated treatment which is likely to be expensive and even potentially dangerous.

How do I know if my child is misbehaving or not?

The behaviour of people with Autism can seem difficult and can be tiring and draining, especially if you are unfamiliar with the condition and do not know why your grandchild is behaving in a particular way.

A good first step is making a list of the different behaviours or difficulties your child exhibits, try to determine what causes these behaviours and how best to deal with them. If you can’t get to the bottom of it, perhaps you can find answers by attending a local autism support group meeting, attending one of AsIAm’s community support webinars, or contacting checking our FAQ section. 

The crucial thing to remember is that the behaviours which may be seen as “difficult” or “bold” are not deliberate defiance or caused by pampering. Rather they are something which many people on the spectrum simply find difficult or are a result of an inability to communicate frustration or anxiety.

You might be asking “Surely people with Autism can be bold too?” or “Where do behaviours brought about by Autism end and being disobedient begin?” and this is a reasonable question. Like any other person, people with Autism have their off-days and can push limits!

Like we mentioned earlier, a good start to this is finding out what the challenges and behaviours your child finds difficult are so as to know we allowances need to be made.

Generally autistic people like to please and value stability so when they misbehave they can feel very guilty or sad afterwards – so it is important to ensure your approach to discipline is consistent. 

How can I help my child make friends?

It is common for autistic people of all ages to experience challenges in socializing. In order to facilitate your child making friends, first and foremost you must remember your child’s differences are not a deliberate attempt to push potential friends away. On a similar note, your child shouldn’t be encouraged to be someone they are not in order to make friends. This may sound obvious, but pushing an autistic child with no interest in sports to join their local football club may send the message that their own interests aren’t valid. 

Supporting your child in making friends is a very possible and worthwhile activity, but should be done carefully. For information on how to negotiate this, check our page on friendships.    

Should I be encouraging my autistic child to go to college? 

It’s important to remember that autistic children, just like any other child, all have different ambitions, interests and skills. Some autistic people will have no difficulties securing a place in a college or university setting but will struggle in transitioning to third-level education and the loss of regular routine that can bring. Other autistic people may struggle to get a college place due to difficulties with secondary-school education but can thrive after entering college through a PLC. Other autistic people may not want to enter third level education at all and prefer to pursue their interests and passions on their own terms. What’s important is not to consider autism as a fundamental barrier to entering third-level education.

The challenges your child may experience in third-level education will be more to do with adapting to a new environment and routine than their academic abilities. These issues aren’t to be dismissed, however, as studies have shown they may contribute to autistic college dropout rate. Our Autism Friendly University Award, beginning with DCU as the world’s first autism-friendly university, seeks to address these issues.

How can I support my child as they enter college?

The transition from second level to third level education can be an overwhelming and sometimes nerve wracking experience. The school environment can be challenging for some autistic people, they may feel exhausted or anxious coming home from school most days. If your child has felt like this, they might feel nervous about venturing further and beginning in third level education.

There are a number of strategies to make this process easier which can be seen here. 

How do I support my child in transitioning to the workplace?

Transitioning into the workplace, whether it be from secondary school or from a form of third level education is daunting no matter what. Sometimes autistic people might not feel as confident in their abilities when in fact they are sure to have a wide range of strengths.  Ideally, they will find a job that they love, but this might take some time. Check this page for a number of practical steps on supporting your child through this process.

Can this be improved? Contact webeditor@asiam.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.