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Autism Spectrum Disorder & You

As the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has increased, so has community awareness. Most people have heard of autism through stories in the news or on social media, and many people know at least one person with this diagnosis. However, not all information being shared is accurate, and every person with ASD is unique. There is not one ‘typical’ child (or adult) with ASD, so assumptions made based on one story or person cannot be generalized to all people with this diagnosis. That is one reason why autism is now referred to as “autism spectrum disorder.” The spectrum is broad and includes children with many different abilities, strengths, and challenges. Each year we promote Autism Acceptance Month, so that we can inform and offer resources to schools and families.

Affecting 1 in 54 children in the U.S., ASD is a biologically based neurodevelopmental disorder with broadly variable observable characteristics. Due to the wide range of traits, some children diagnosed with ASD may require significant daily support, while others need much less. This variation in behaviors and needs can cause concern and confusion for those supporting ASD children.

CLI faculty and staff at the UT Physicians Pediatric Center for Autism and Related Conditions work hard every day to provide family-centered and evidence-based assessments, treatment recommendations, and guidance clearly and compassionately. CLI’s team of autism experts strive to provide the best resources for parents and teachers diagnosed with ASD.

You can read more about our clinical practices in our article “Center for Autism and Related Conditions: A Comprehensive Approach to Diagnosis.”

The best resources are based on up-to-date research and clinical expertise, presenting information in  clear and easy-to-understand ways while acknowledging that there is still much more to be learned about ASD. We do not have all the answers yet, but researchers are making strides each year in understanding the roots of this complex developmental condition. To support the teachers, parents, and grandparents of children with ASD, CLI has gathered the below resources.

TEACHER RESOURCES

Children with ASD have the right to go to school and be provided with Special Education services to help them achieve their educational, social, and behavioral goals. Children with ASD who attend public schools are typically supported by a team of professionals that include the general education teacher, special education teacher(s), and other specialists such as a speech therapist, occupational therapist, school counselor, or behavior specialist. General education teachers may have little background and training in teaching children with ASD and how to help them typically developing peers understand and include them successfully in the classroom community. But research shows that inclusion of children with special needs in the general education classroom can be beneficial for everyone when it is done effectively and with adequate supports in place for teachers and students. Here are some resources that CLI experts have identified as being particularly helpful for teachers:

  1. Paula Kluth: Reading List
  2. Autism Speaks: Autism and Social Skills Development
  3. Autism Society: Growing Together

PARENT RESOURCES

Parents and families of children with ASD often find it challenging to navigate all the available resources and figure out which are best for their child. CLI clinical staff’s reviewed and identified an array of favorite resource materials to provide to families. The resources below are a few of what we consider to be top-rated when it comes to ASD family resources.

  1. The Amaze.org.au “What is Autism?” poster shows atypical behaviors and what those behaviors might look like.
  2. Sesame Street’s website for autism provides children and their families better ways to understand and include children with ASD.
  3. The Autism Speaks website provides a wealth of helpful information and includes resources in Spanish and English. Their “100 Day Kits,” have a set of articles to help families of newly diagnosed children understand and start interventions to help their child.

Parents who know that their child with autism will be going back to school in fall 2021 may want to read the recent article by UTHealth, “Child development expert offers tips for parents of children with autism whose lives have been upended by the pandemic.” Also, of interest is the recommended article, “Expert advice on how to help children with autism maintain routines during COVID-19,” which we believe can be used at any point to help a child with ASD.

Not only do parents need to support their child with ASD, but also meet the needs of typically developing siblings, if they have them. Siblings may feel frustrated, confused, or left out when another child has ASD. They may not understand their sibling’s behaviors, think that their sibling gets all the attention, or find it hard to be patient with their challenging behaviors. On the other hand, siblings can be compassionate, insightful, and wonderful advocates and playmates! When siblings are given simple, helpful information, and when parents are attentive to the needs of their typically developing children, families can learn and grow together, appreciating each child as a unique individual. “Sibling Perspectives: Guidelines for Parents,” prepared by the Indiana Resource Center for Autism, helps parents understand the needs of typically developing siblings and offers tips for addressing those needs.

GRANDPARENT RESOURCES

Other family members may also want to understand more about ASD and learn how they can help. Grandparents can be excellent sources of support for children with ASD and their parents, but they may have outdated information about autism or wonder what they can do to help. Autism Speaks provides “A Grandparent’s Guide to Autism,” helps empower grandparents to understand ASD, connect with their grandchildren, and support their grandchildren’s parents.

Remember, no two children have the same needs, challenges, and behaviors related to their underlying ASD diagnosis. Make it a practice not to compare children with the same diagnosis, as each child is unique and special in their own way.

For free guidance with special education questions, you can contact SPEDTex.org (1-855-SPED-TEX).

To schedule an appointment with CLI’s UT Physicians Center for Autism and Related Conditions, call 713-500-3600.

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