After An Autism Diagnosis, What Steps Do I Take?

By: Stacy Goresko, Ph.D.
RDI® Program Certified Consultant

Last month I wrote an article entitled, “Beyond ABA Treatment.” It is the first of a series of articles I am writing designed for parents and professionals who want to educate themselves about the various treatment options for autism spectrum disorders.

In “Beyond ABA” I stated that I am continuously struck by how little the “professionals” and the “decision-makers” really know about autism and its treatment options. As a mother of a child with autism and now an autism professional, I have made it my business to educate myself as to what therapies and intervention models are out there. I commented in my last article that, “Just as there are not two children on the spectrum who are the same, there is no ‘one size fits all’ type of approach to autism.”

The question then becomes, “Where do I start?” As in any field, the best way to approach autism is by educating yourself. If you are a parent with a child on the spectrum you need to be proactive and find out as much as you can. To start, I highly recommend that you talk to other parents who have been down this road to really get an insider’s perspective of their experiences. If you need help finding these families, contact your local Autism Society chapter and ask.

I caution you, however. Do not try everything under the sun even if you are in the position to do so. Just because something worked for “Johnny” across the street does not mean that it will work for your child. Remember, each child on the spectrum is different. Your job for now is simply to collect information. Keep it, think about it and when you have done your research and are no longer in a “reactive” mode, take out your notes, know who your child is and then proceed to make an informed decision.

I can not emphasize this point enough. You do not want to make such an important decision – one that will most likely shape your child’s life – if you are in the crisis state. Too many parents, once they get a diagnosis, rush into the first approach they hear about thinking that there is no time to waste. While this is true, believe me, your time is better spent educating yourself about what is out there before plunging into any kind of therapy. The exception to this rule is speech, occupational (OT), and/or physical therapy (PT). They can do no harm.

Okay, so now you have your first assignment. Contact those families. Ask them and talk about your questions and concerns. If possible ask to meet their child. It helped me a great deal to see other children with autism. I recognized a lot of my own son in them and saw the potential of a great life!

In my next article I will discuss the different theoretical approaches to the treatment of autism spectrum disorders.

Stacy Goresko, Ph.D. is a Relationship Development Intervention (RDI® program consultant in private practice in Boulder Colorado. She is a respected lecturer in her field and has recently been hired to be a national speaker on autism. She has spent the last several years providing support to academic and home programs for pre – school aged through adulthood.