By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D
President, bSci21Media, LLC
Being a parent is a full-time job. Being a parent of a child diagnosed with autism can mean working overtime.
Dr. Denise Kerth, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and coordinator of the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program at Rowan University, provides five tips for parents of newly diagnosed children with autism. Her tips focus primarily on the psychological wellbeing of parents, rather than specific treatment options for children. But enough talking, let’s get to it:
1. Begin intervention as soon as possible.
Your child has the best chances for success the earlier you start an ABA program. If your child is under three years of age, contact your state’s Early Intervention Services Department. If he/she is over three, then Dr. Kerth recommends talking with the school district.
2. Become informed.
You need to take an active role in educating yourself about autism and evidence-based treatments available. Dr. Kerth recommends the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (asatonline.org). Although many, many, people want your child to succeed, no one advocates for children quite like parents.
3. Focus on your child, not the diagnosis.
Your child is not autistic. He/she has been diagnosed with autism. There’s a difference. A diagnosis focuses on skill deficits, but that isn’t the entirety of your child. In fact, many individuals with autism are quite skilled. Focus on your child as a whole person and see the change it makes in your wellbeing.
4. Be kind to yourself (and your spouse).
Receiving an autism diagnosis can evoke many different emotions similar to the grieving process. This is a natural reaction. Dr. Kerth says you should “give yourself permission to experience these stages.” Your family will be better off for doing so in the long run.
5. Establish your support network.
Reaching out to friends and family is a must. They can provide you with emotional and logistical support when you need it most. Autism Speaks also has a 100-day tool kit, which includes tips on how to build a strong support network.
If you are a parent of a child diagnosed with autism or other disorder, tell us your story in the comments below. Also, be sure to keep in touch with bSci21 via email subscription to receive new articles directly to your inbox!
Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is President of bSci21 Media, LLC, which owns bSci21.org and BAQuarterly.com. Todd serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management and as an editorial board member for Behavior and Social Issues. He has worked as a behavior analyst in day centers, residential providers, homes, and schools, and served as the director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas. Todd’s areas of expertise include writing, entrepreneurship, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Instructional Design, Organizational Behavior Management, and ABA therapy. Todd can be reached at email@example.com.