Receiving a diagnosis of autism is overwhelming. Waves of emotions begin to flood your inner being, ranging from sadness to anger to feelings of anxiety.
You begin to ask yourself questions like, “Why me?”, “What did I do wrong?”, and “What do I do next?” There is a plethora of information on the internet and social media outlets as to what are the “best” therapies to help individuals with autism.
These therapies range from Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) to Floortime, Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Music Therapy; the list goes on and on.
Not to mention all the information and research related to special diets, supplements, and vaccinations.
With so much information at your fingertips, the internet and social media can be a curse and a blessing which may leave you feeling overwhelmed and confused as to what are the best therapies to help your child.
I am here to tell you to take a deep breath and to keep the facts below in mind when determining what the most appropriate therapies/therapists are for your child.
We still do not know the causes of autism and autism does not have a cure. This may sound discouraging, however, what we do know is that individuals with autism can graduate from high school, go to college, become doctors, lawyers, basketball players, artists, musicians, etc. and live happy independent lives.
It is important to remember these individuals did not all follow the same therapeutic path. If you have met one person with autism you have met one person with autism. Therapies that may work for one child may not work for yours and that is okay. Autism is a lifelong disorder, so a therapy such as ABA that works for your child when he/she is younger may not work when he/she is ten years old. He/She may need different types of therapy throughout his/her life.
Keep in mind that we are human and thus are complex beings who have different needs cognitively, physically, and emotionally. Remember this when deciding which therapies to have your child participate in because you want to find therapies and therapists that work on all the aspects of your child’s being. One therapy can target one aspect of your child’s being and another therapy can work on another aspect. There is no one size fits all therapeutic model.
You will need to create a therapeutic model and a therapeutic team that works for your child and addresses all his/her needs and also works with your lifestyle. I have listed three tips below when determining which therapies and therapists are best suited for your child.
1. Find Therapists Who Believe in Your Child
Imagine you told your spouse or a parent of a goal you wanted to accomplish, and they all said you would not accomplish it. How would that make you feel? Now apply that to your child. Any professional who uses the words “can’t,” “will not,” or “no” … FIRE THEM! If a therapist says your child can’t talk or will not graduate from high school then he/she does not believe in your child and will hinder your child’s growth. I recommend you write three short-term goals and three long-term goals for your child.
Do you want your child to talk? Do you want your child to drive? Do you want your child to go to college? Write down all the goals you want your child to accomplish and share those goals with potential therapists and/or therapeutic companies you are interviewing. If the professionals say your goals are impossible or have doubt, then they are not the right fit to work with your child.
It is that simple. You want people in your child’s life who believe your child can and will accomplish anything, not have doubts about what he/she can do based on his/her autism diagnosis.
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2. Find Therapists That Build A Relationship With Your Child
Children with autism have a sixth sense. They instinctually know who does and does not like them. It doesn’t matter what type of therapy (i.e. ABA, Floortime, Speech, etc.), if the therapist does not take the time to build a relationship with your child and take the time to get know his/her likes and dislikes, your child will not progress. It is important to find a therapist who can balance pushing your child and respecting his/her wants and needs and can have fun with him/her.
3. Trust Your Gut
The most important thing to take away from this article is to trust your gut, your intuition. YOU, the parent, are your child’s expert. If your child is participating in a certain therapy and/or working with a therapist and you sense something doesn’t feel right, trust your instinct because something isn’t right.
The therapist or therapeutic approach may not be a good fit and you may need to find something or someone else to work with your child. Same thing goes for food allergies and supplements.
If you feel your child is reacting to certain foods or needs supplements, trust your gut. Your intuition will ultimately lead you to create the best therapeutic approach and team for your child.
When it comes to the treatment of autism there is no playbook, no recipe to follow. That can be scary. It is the fear of the unknown that makes this autism journey terrifying. However, you as the parent have all the tools you need to make the right decisions as to what is the best path for your child and how your child will accomplish his/her goals.
You are your child’s expert and your intuition will guide you to the right therapists and therapeutic approaches that will best suit your child. The beautiful thing about this is that this is YOUR journey and not anyone else’s. Think of it as you are writing your book and telling your story and it will help inspire others on their similar journeys.
This article was featured in Issue 100 – Best Tools And Strategies For Autism