When a child is diagnosed with autism, it can leave parents feeling overwhelmed. They initially need to learn what this means for their own child. After this, they must share the news with family and friends. At the same time, many will begin to advocate for their child's needs. For many parents, this is a confusing time that can make them feel overwhelmed. Depending on the age of their child, they may not know where to go for assistance.
For children who are past Early Intervention age, parents will often look to their school district for guidance. Each state and individual county within them may have different protocols to follow. It is important for those within the schools to be familiar with protocol in order to assist families in this process. The first step will be to do any additional testing that may be required. Has a thorough speech evaluation been done? Does the child qualify for occupational or physical therapy? Some kids will benefit from those types of therapies to assist with low muscle tone, balance concerns, and fine and gross motor skills. Each autistic child is different, and it’s important to determine what is best for their needs. Social skill development is another key area that kids on the autism spectrum will benefit from.
One problem facing some families is the inability to qualify for a specific type of intensive and expensive behavioral therapy. Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) may not be covered by Medicaid, even if a child’s neurologist recommends it. Parents may assume that it that they are able to receive this under their benefits, but some states like Texas are refusing it. If individual insurance covers it, the cost to the family is prohibitive. School districts need to think ahead about the students that are coming into their buildings for learning. It may be beneficial to them to start ABA or other programs for children with autism. Research shows that the cost of the intensive therapy pays for itself later on when the children are in school full time.
Special education teachers and therapists need to create a committee within school districts to map out plans. What will be the best for the needs of the incoming students to make them most successful in the future? Think about how it will help them in their schooling down the road. Go over what may be covered through a child’s Medicaid or insurance plan and what community resources may be available to assist with these costs. As always, it’s crucial to stay on top of autism research to see what therapies may fit within your schools and the needs of the kids within them.