WHAT IS AUTISM?
Autism refers to a "broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication".
SIGNS OF AUTISM
There are many signs of Autism. Some of the most common include:
Lack of eye contact
Lack of communication and/or delay in spoken language
Repetitive behaviors or language
Persistent in keeping routines and rituals the same
SCREENING & DIAGNOSIS
If you have concerns
If you believe your loved on is showing characteristics associated with Autism, be sure to discuss your concerns with his or her pediatrician. The pediatrician may refer your loved one for further evaluation, pr you may contact your local Early Intervention provider.
Who can evaluate my loved one?
There are several professionals who can perform an evaluation for Autism for your loved one. They include:
Child psychologist or psychiatrist
Many families will seek an evaluation from the Child Development Clinic. Please note that your loved one may wait several months before being evaluated.
Are there any online assessment tools?
Yes! The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers offers a free online screening tool.
AFTER THE DIAGNOSIS
Many families experience a range of emotions when their loved one is diagnosed with Autism. It is important that families take their time to process their emotions and concerns.
It is crucial that you find support for yourself and your loved ones. Talk to your children, your family, your significant other and your friends about your struggles and times of triumph. Beyond your immediate circle, you can find support through:
Your faith community
Online groups and listservs
Ask for help
There are times that may be difficult for your family. Be sure to ask for help, even if it is for something simple such as picking up a prescription. Getting time to recharge is critical for your well-being.
There are many different interventions available for your loved one who has been diagnosed with Autism including:
Speech, occupational, physical & vision therapies;
Therapeutic horseback riding;
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA);
Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication-Handicapped CHildren (TEACCH);
First-Then visual schedule; and
Visual schedules & graphic organizers
It is never too early to start planning for your loved one's future. He or she may require supports in making decisions, such as where to live and manage money. Many families believe that they are entitled to make decisions for their loved one throughout their lives because of his or her disability. THIS IS INCORRECT. Once your loved one reaches the age of eighteen, he or she is able to make his or her own decisions unless guardianship or conservatorship is established.
Guardianship and Conservatorship
Guardianship and conservatorship should be considered ONLY if your loved one will need assistance making day to day decisions. Guardianship takes legal rights from your loved one and can include the removal of the right to vote, enter into contracts, make financial decisions and more. However, you may consider different levels of guardianship, which enables your loved one to maintain certain rights, such as the right to spend his or her money as he or she chooses.
This is a common concern for many families--"Who will care for my loved one when I am no longer able to care for them?". Many individuals with Autism will require supports throughout their lifetimes which are funded through Medicaid. To be eligible for and to maintain Medicaid, an adult can have no more than $2000 in assets and less than $2,250 in monthly income. Some options to provide for additional financial supports are Special Needs Trusts and ABLE Accounts.