BBC News




A personal note:
As a mother of an autistic adult son I am often asked to talk to parents whose children have been newly diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum.

Below are a few pointers if you suspect your child may be autistic or may have ASD traits.

Study your child and look for “symptoms” – is there anything out of the ordinary?
NHS – Signs of Autism in children

Often parents have an inner feeling, an instinct, that something is “not quite right”.
Well-meaning friends and even GPs may then advise to “wait and see”.
However, early intervention is critical.

NHS – How to get diagnosed

National Autistic Society (NAS) – Diagnosis

Probably by this stage most parents feel confused and lonely.
It is easy to spend a lot of energy on the diagnosis part – and on going from one expert to another.
Often the NHS will set up a hearing test and various other assessments.
It is a draining time – and much time can pass in the hope of getting “The Diagnosis” and “Help”.

Search the internet for “Autism Diagnosis next steps UK” – add your county name or town and see what comes up.
ActionForChildren – Autism Diagnosis, what now?

So my personal recommendation to parents is to “act as if” they had “The Diagnosis”.
Track 1 – getting the diagnosis and talking to doctors, teachers, autism experts, authorities etc
Track 2 – in parallel starting an autism therapy programme straight away

Autism is all about energy management.
It is a marathon – not a sprint.
It is easy to get immersed in Track 1 and be left with no energy for Track 2.
That is why I think Track 2 needs to happen as soon as the slightest suspicions about ‘Autism” start to arise.

Track 1 deals with the external world
Track 2 deals with the child and the family internal world
By acting as if “The Diagnosis” had come and “Authoritative Advice” had been given, the parents are empowered and encouraged to act and work with the child.

In autism Pattern Perception and Processing seem to be altered. Crespi, FrontiersIn
So a different style of teaching is required – one that uses patterns and systematic teaching.
It helps if parents become aware of how to teach patterns to autistic children.
As a parent changing the way you interact with your child is hard – but the prize is worth the effort.
A lot of parents get started with an ABA Programme or ABA alternatives.
Do your research and find what works for you and your child.
For us it was a mixture of ABA and Verbal Behaviour that saw our son make improvements in speech and comprehension.
But probably the best advice I can give parents is: find what works for you and your child.

A few easy exercises and resources for the whole family:
5 at home ABA techniques
Mary Barbera – Autism Podcast (Turn around Autism)
Mary Barbera – Getting Started with the Verbal Behaviour approach (ABA/VB) – includes an assessment form

Above all – autism is a journey.
Try and find happiness and joy every day on this journey (easier said than done, I know).

“A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step” (Chinese Proverb)
Find a way to make it a joyful step every day.