Approximately 1 in 36 children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) each year.
I had the privilege of interviewing a few local East Valley moms whose children have been diagnosed with ASD. These moms are the experts and the best advocates for their children. Their stories inspired me.
Keep reading for their pearls of wisdom from walking the journey, in their voices (not mine).
An autism spectrum disorder diagnosis is not scary for us
It is not a sentence of hopelessness that some make it out to be. Our children are incredible. Just like any other parent, we want the best for them. Here’s one Gilbert mom’s story of ‘winging it’ with Autism.
Autism comes with its own gifts and talents that others don’t have. We choose to embrace the difference in the way our children view the world.
Our children are capable of much more than we think
Raising our children may be different than we expected but our children are still capable of amazing things and are perfect just as they are.
Our role is to help our children live “normal” and desensitize them from their extreme fears and dislikes (hair cuts, clothing textures, food aversions).
Parenting children with ASD requires a whole new level of patience
Sometimes we are stretching ourselves to the limit emotionally and mentally and parenting a child with autism can feel very isolating sometimes, especially when we have to turn down outings because we know our child’s limits.
The hardest thing about raising an autistic child is seeing our child realize they are “different”
It’s on us as the parents to have to navigate explaining to our children how their brain works a little differently but it doesn’t make them any less.
Here’s how ASD is diagnosed
Autism can present in very different ways so it is important to seek out a professional evaluation.
Pediatricians conduct the MCHAT (Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers) at 16-30 months of age. That helps determine if a child needs a professional evaluation. All the moms I talked to for this article said if a pediatrician will not support you, find one who will.
Children ages birth to 2 years and 10.5 months can be screened through the AzEIP (Arizona Early Intervention Program) to determine if early intervention services are needed.
Local school districts can also assess children close to 3 years old.
Early Intervention is Key for Autism
The first three years of a child’s life are crucial for learning. The earlier interventions are put in place, the better.
Misdiagnosis can lead to an incredible amount of frustration so it is very important to find the right support in school and a qualified therapist who specializes in ASD. This helps both the child and the parents.
Parents of autistic children have to establish a Special Needs Trust
Planning for the future is so important for our children and especially important for those with special needs. Parents can set up a trust with an attorney who knows about families with special needs children.
East Valley Resources for Families with Autistic Children
- SARRC (Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center) has locations throughout the valley offering all kinds of support to families. Their community school is located in Tempe.
- Raising Special Kids exists to help families of children with disabilities and special health care needs.
- Action Behavior Centers can conduct ADOS (Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale) for free.
- There are sensory friendly events near you. For example, movie theaters and jump places may have times when the sounds and lighting is adjusted.
- Mesa is one of the first “certified cities” for being autism friendly.
- Forever Boy by Kate Swenson (A Mother’s Memoir of Autism and Finding Joy) @findingcoopersvoice on Instagram is a great account to follow for a glimpse into the life of parenting a child with ASD