For every 54 children in the United States, one child suffers from autism. Having a child with autism can seem daunting, scary, and full of worry. There’s no doubt that you love your child unconditionally, but the worries of making sure they are looked after properly and understood through their condition can feel like a struggle. While there is help available, sometimes it can be costly or hard to access.
Autism, though, doesn’t necessarily need to be a scary prospect. It is extremely common and with the right help, it can be managed well and treated effectively. Though there is no cure, there is plenty you can do to try and ease the struggles and help your child manage their condition.
Understanding autism itself is a struggle. It is a very complex and confusing condition that affects the nervous system, resulting in a wide variety of mental strengths and weaknesses. Autism can also vary massively in terms of severity, with some children developing intense communication issues, while others have a much less complex case to deal with.
Autism can be treated to an extent, mostly with ABA therapy. The cost of ABA therapy can be a barrier to entry for some families, which will be discussed in greater detail shortly. Aside from this, there are plenty of resources online, support groups, and other families who are willing and able to give you plenty of help and advice. Although there are many stresses, struggles, and worries surrounding treating and managing your child’s autism, there is help for you, your child, and your whole family if you need it.
Symptoms in Young Children
To understand autism a little better, it’s best to understand some of the main symptoms of autism. These symptoms vary in severity and therefore, can sometimes be hard to spot. Most of the recognizable symptoms revolve around communication and social skills.
When it comes to social skills, as early as two years old, your child should be able to recognize and comprehend emotion. If they do not, or they have a hard time looking at you in your eyes, this can be a sign of social development issues due to autism. In this situation, it can be extremely hard to explain to your children why you are angry, happy, or sad. Children may look away or recoil as they find it almost impossible to understand other people’s emotions.
There may also be symptoms involving communication. A toddler should be able to string a few words together and begin being able to explain things to you. If your child at two years old can’t communicate at all, or simply repeats words back to you with little understanding, this can be a sign of autistic behavior. Communication issues cause a large amount of the struggles parents have with their young children suffering from autism. It can be a huge challenge trying to communicate with and understand them, causing frustration on all sides.
Finally, you may notice your child has obsessive or compulsive behaviours. They may focus on repetitive tasks and struggle, cry, or tantrum when you change their routine. A child without autism would most likely happily be distracted by all sorts of weird and wonderful things, not caring for routine or order. A child with autism may be completely different, staying entirely focused on the same things for long periods.
Getting a Diagnosis
It is often a big fear for parents to reach out to medical professionals for a diagnosis. There is a fear that a confirmed diagnosis means years of struggle and worry. But, getting your child seen by your family pediatrician is the best thing to do if you suspect any of these symptoms being due to autism. They will perform tests and diagnose your child, which is a good thing. Getting an accurate diagnosis means you can begin a treatment program and start to help your child develop through their issues.
This is where ABA (applied behavioural analysis therapy) can come into play. ABA works by monitoring behavioural changes related to autistic symptoms. While monitoring it, coaching and exercises are applied to help your child navigate their issues and develop through them. This sort of therapy can help get your child more on track with their communication and understanding how they are different, and how to deal with it.
ABA therapy can, and likely should, take place over a long time. The issue here is that it can be expensive. ABA therapists can charge up to $200 per hour, meaning that full-time care for a severely autistic child could cost around $4000 per week – an impossible fee for most parents. This can cause even more stress and worry, as you feel your child may suffer from not receiving ABA treatment.
In some cases, your insurance may cover part or all of your child’s ABA therapy needs, though this is not guaranteed and could only last a fixed amount of time. Otherwise, some states provide subsidies or state-funded ABA therapy to help you bring the costs down. It is always worth searching your local area, speaking to your child’s school, and reaching out to your family practitioner for advice on ABA funding. Getting help with this could ease your struggles massively/
Challenges at Home
The other main worry that parents struggle with is that their child needs enhanced care and attention at home when they are away from specialist schooling or therapy. There will be struggles, there will be stressful times, and there will be challenges ahead.
There are many groups online dedicated to parents of children with autism. These are places for free advice and support, while many have links to incredible resources all aimed at making your job as the parent of an autistic child a little easier. Your doctor and child’s therapist will also offer plenty of advice on helping your child at home. You are not alone, even if it sometimes feels like you are.
The struggles of a parent whose child has autism are real, though they can be managed and helped, especially if you seek advice from others. Affording and accessing therapy is one of the best things you can do, but there are all sorts of other ways to help too.