Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurological condition that is often diagnosed in early childhood. There are three distinct degrees, but even the seemingly mildest of ASD symptoms still require professional intervention. This includes critical skill development in many aspects of daily life. At the same time, every person with ASD is unique with varying symptoms and severity of challenges.
The complexity and varying severity of symptoms typically means that you need to build an entire team of “Autism Specialists” to help your child navigate the various challenges necessary to reach their best possible milestones. This usually involves strategic personal decisions, family engagement, and recruiting experts who are most relevant for the milestones your child is trying to achieve.
At the same time, you also need to consider the costs related to particular types of autism experts and factor in things like insurance coverage and public assistance resources. Some of these autism experts charge a great deal of money and some are not covered by typical insurance policies or school district services.
To ensure your child with ASD is getting the care they need for their current developmental challenge, you need to inform yourself about the different specialists in this field and what they offer.
There is no “Cure” for autism spectrum disorder. However, there are many therapeutic techniques and specialists can help a child with ASD to reach increasingly positive milestones that contribute to the highest possible quality of life.
You might find it helps to think of ASD treatment as a journey that your entire family will go through with your child. Along the way, you will encounter different types of autism experts and specialists who can help at different points throughout the journey.
This might start with expert diagnosticians who help identify your child’s symptoms and evaluate their needs. They might give way to ABA therapists, occupational therapists, speech & language pathologists, and even special educators.
Each of these autism experts brings their own knowledge and skills to help guide you through the journey.
A lot of children with ASD start to manifest symptoms around 18 months of age. They can range in severity from overt to quite subtle. That means that families might start interacting with autism specialists before a child turns two, or not until they reach school age.
Diagnosticians are highly informed about the signs and symptoms surrounding autism spectrum disorder. They provide a helpful first step in building an accurate picture of your child’s symptoms and severity.
There are different types of diagnosticians you might interact with. This includes:
- Developmental pediatricians
- Pediatric neurologists
- Child psychologists
- Speech & language pathologists
- Occupational therapists
Though diagnosticians don’t offer early intervention services, so they typically hand off their expert opinion to behavioral specialists like ABA therapists.
Early Intervention Experts
When a child is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at a very young age, they have the best chances of qualifying for early intervention services. Especially if their confirmed diagnosis comes before age 6.
A lot of early intervention experts are trained to work with very young children and their families. It’s not uncommon for them to come to your homes where they can interact with your child in a comfortable familiar setting. It’s also a good opportunity for them to provide family members with extended training to help serve as a support team for your child’s immediate developmental needs. They can also give you an idea of how things will evolve in the short term.
The majority of public and private schools as well as major insurance agencies offer behavioral therapy for children with autism. The most effective tend to be Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapists. They work with your child and their support team to develop a short and long-term treatment strategy that is customized to the type and severity of your child’s ASD symptoms.
As your child reaches or struggles to reach specific milestones for social, language, cognitive and other skills, the ABA therapist will start to modify the treatment plan. If your child is struggling in one area, they will use their science-based, data-driven treatment strategies to help them reach ever-evolving outcomes.
Behavioral therapists and ABA practitioners also coordinate with other therapeutic specialists and educators to provide your child with the most seamless therapeutic experience possible.
Developmental therapy is distinctively different from behavioral therapy in that it tends to focus primarily on the child’s intrinsic interests and emotional responses rather than on desired behaviors. Developmental therapists often work in tandem with an occupational therapist as well as speech and language pathologists to offer your child a slightly broader perspective than many other autism experts.
The majority of children with ASD have some type of language or verbal dysfunction that needs to be addressed to advance many of their educational and social interaction milestones. A lot of times speech & language pathologists will work with occupational therapists and behavioral therapists as part of a larger treatment strategy laid out by your child’s ABA or BCBA therapist.
Many parents will recruit the help of speech & language pathologists to also work with experts in sensory integration, art therapy, hippotherapy, or recreational therapists, to help advance their child’s quality of life as they age.
Special Education Teacher
With early intervention, a child with mild to modern ASD symptoms might be quite capable of attending school in some form. Once a child moves into the public school system they often start working with teachers, administrators, and school-based therapists to develop an individualized educational plan.
This IEP is a legal document that outlines services and accommodations a child will receive. It is often coordinated with your child’s ABA therapist to make sure that your child has as seamless of an experience as possible while continuing to advance all their important milestones on their journey to adulthood.
As you can see, the journey through life for an autistic child and their family is one with a lot of great helpers and guideposts. While there will certainly be challenges along the way, you can take solace in knowing that modern behavior science and mental healthcare have never been better prepared to help your child with ASD to live the highest quality of life possible!