Finding a Program that Works for Your Child with ASD
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Finding a Program that Works for Your Child with ASD

It is an overwhelming task for parents to choose the right program for their child with autism. We do our research through media, family, friends, and ask other people in the autism community what is working for them. We then enroll our child in that program only to find it isn’t working for them. So what went wrong?

Lisa Jo Rudy offers some answers to this questions in her article Why the “Best” Autism Programs May Not Work for Your Child. She offers some good insights into why a program works for one person and not another or sounds great on paper but doesn’t work in real life. Autism organizations can be like businesses and parents have to realize there are good and bad ones, just like there are in any other area of professions.

When deciding on a program, there are several things to consider. Think about the following:

  • Functioning level – Is the child are verbal or non-verbal? What is cognitive ability?
  • Age of the child – different ages and stages mean different needs.
  • Behavioral issues – Are there anxiety and sensory issues or medical issues?
  • Goals for the child – What do you want for your child? Do you want to increase independence, acquire social skills in order to make friends, improve language, learn to print, or control meltdowns?

Think about the impact a program might have on the family. What involvement is expected from you or other members of your family? Make sure you can commit for whatever time is required or is recommended. I see lots of parents try the gluten-free/casein free diet without considering the time, cost and preparation involved in such a diet. If your child is in a day home, the caregiver may not be able to prepare a different meal for your child. Consider what the effects will be if a program is not successful.

Assess what the cost will be. See if your health insurance plan will cover the costs and check if there is government funding available. Before trying any program or therapy, do some research to see if there is scientific evidence to support its effectiveness. Try to find case studies or clinical trials to read. There are lots of claims about therapies or treatments that dramatically change the course of autism, but many of these claims are not true and prey upon the vulnerability of parents.

The bottom line is you have to find a program that is right both for your child with ASD and for your family, and not be influenced by what another family is doing or what the media is highlighting. Sure – ask other families what is working for them, but be prepared to adapt for your situation. Gather as much information as you can about a program or therapy, make sure you know what it involved, and be realistic about the commitment you can make both with time and finances. Every family’s needs are unique so keep that in mind when choosing a program.

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