When Sophie was diagnosed with autism I had a ton of questions. Who do I call to start treatment? Which therapies are appropriate? How do I contact a therapist in my area? Who needs to be on Sophie’s team?
You have tons of treatment options, which is great, but overwhelming. Let’s take a look at the various people you might want to include on your autism team and what each of these individuals can bring to Your Autism Game Plan.
If your child receives an autism diagnosis before the age of three, your first experience with therapists may come from your child’s involvement in Early Intervention (EI). Early Intervention is a network of support services provided by the state for children, birth to age three, with special needs.
If your child is over the age of three, they can receive these therapies through private practices or at school. You may need a prescription from your pediatrician to start services. To avoid any surprise payments, before your child receives treatment, you should contact your insurance company.
Here are the most common therapists associated with the treatment of autism.
- Occupational Therapist (OT): Occupational therapists focus primarily on fine motor skills (like self-feeding, handwriting, and dressing) as well as sensory integration and processing issues.
- Physical Therapist (PT): Physical therapists help develop gross motor skills (like crawling, walking, and climbing) and core strength.
- Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP): Speech and language pathologists (or speech therapists) work to assist oral motor development to help feeding issues and word-formation challenges. Often autistic kids are picky eaters which can stem from a sensory issue or an oral motor deficit, a combination of speech and OT therapies can help.
- Social Worker: Through individual sessions and social skills groups, social workers help kids who struggle with social interaction – a classic characteristic of autism. Social groups are a great way for kids with autism to interact with their peers and practice social skills in real-time.
- Applied Behavior Analysis Therapist: An ABA therapist uses systematic and data-driven interventions to change your child’s behaviors. Some people choose ABA therapy and others don’t. You should make an informed decision based on what’s right for your child and your family.
- Floortime™ Therapist: Floortime™ is a relationship-based therapy. That means the therapists let your child’s interests guide their interventions. Floortime™ therapists also provide parent training because this intervention is most effective when it’s adopted as an overall parenting style.
The School Team
You will also work with a team of professionals at your child’s school.
Where your child will go to school depends on their unique needs, your priorities, your school district’s options, and your budget. Some of the options available are public school in a general education classroom, public school in a self-contained classroom, a special needs school, a therapeutic day school, and homeschooling.
Make sure to research the options in your area so you can make the best choice for your child.
Here are the most common team members found in schools.
- Classroom Teacher: In addition to your child’s classroom teacher they may also receive instruction from adapted P.E., art, and music teachers.
- Classroom Aide (Paraprofessional or Paraeducator): Your child may receive support from an aide in the classroom or more intensive support from a one on one aide.
- School Therapists: Within the school system your child may qualify for OT, PT, Speech, or social Work. Depending on where they go to school they may also qualify for less common interventions like music or art therapy.
- Administrators: Administrators can include your school’s Director of Special Services, the school principal, the district superintendent, or if your child is in a self-contained classroom, you may also interact with a special education cooperative coordinator.
- Parent Advocate: A parent advocate is an outside professional who is typically hired by the parents. An advocate can be helpful if you’re having trouble understanding the school system or your school district is not providing the services your child needs.
A parent advocate is an expert in many facets of special education. They have a thorough understanding of the school system and can give you ideas for school-based intervention you may not have considered.
When you’re choosing a medical provider, make sure to pick someone who has a certain level of expertise in the area of autism. Find someone you’re comfortable including, in the long-term, as a part of your autism team. This person may be a:
- Primary Care Provider or Family Doctor, MD
- Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, DO
- Nurse Practitioner
- Physician’s Assistant
Child Care Providers
Even if you wanted to, you can’t always be around to take care of your child. Inevitably you will have appointments and outings that will require you to enlist the help of a babysitter or nanny.
It’s essential to have a team of trusted child care providers you can call on when you need help (or a break). Finding a qualified and trustworthy candidate can be challenging, especially if your child has complex needs. Services like Care.com and BrightStarCare.com offer in-home child care options for kids with special needs.
An important part of your autism team is your family. This group might include your spouse, partner, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or close friends. Unlike many other teammates on this list, your family’s main role is to support you and your decisions. It’s important that everyone is on the same page and working toward the same goals.
Who’s Essential to Your Autism Team?
Who else should be on your autism team? Let me know in the comments below if you have someone helpful on your team that’s not listed here.Tell Me More!
All my videos offer unbiased, actionable advice for your most common autism challenges.
Be gentle with yourself. You’re doing a great job.
I hope this information has been helpful to you as part of creating Your Autism Game Plan.
Do you have a topic you’d like to learn more about? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org