Special Education Resources For Autism

Recent statistics show that 1 out of every 88 children are on the autism spectrum. Of those, 1 in 54 are boys. Children on the autism spectrum may be diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, autism, pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and childhood disintegrative disorder. Kids with ASD commonly struggle with a range of communication issues, may exhibit repetitive behaviors, may have sensory issues as well as other challenges.

1. Where to start?

It can be a relief to learn that your child falls on the autism spectrum for the simple reason that you finally know what you are facing. At the same time, the diagnosis can be scary and overwhelming. There are an enormous number of Special Education Resources related to autism out there and wading through them can feel like a herculean task. Break them down into categories. In the very beginning, set up a bookmark folder labeled ASD-General. These resources can help you learn the most basic facts and you can share them with friends and family so that they, too, can learn.

  1. Autism Speaks is probably the best known autism-focused organization in the United States. In addition to advocating for individuals with autism, Autism Speaks raises money for research and maintains a website with vast resources for families.
  2. Created for parents, by parents, Autism Web offers advice on autism resources, diet, teaching methods and a chance to talk to other parents who know what you’re experiencing.
  3. If your child is school-aged and you are struggling with your local school, Wrightslaw is where to start. (No one is saying you should sue!) They offer a library of already settled legal cases, an excellent site search engine and detailed information about ADA, IDEA, RTI, LRE and all the other alphabet combinations that are probably swirling around your head!
  4. The Pediatric Academy of Special Needs understands that even routine check-ups can be difficult for you and your child. They offer training to doctors, dentists and other healthcare providers. More importantly, for parents, they offer a listing of trained healthcare professionals to help you find the right medical care for your child.

2. I’ve got the basics, now what?

Once you have done some basic research and absorbed information about your child’s special needs, odds are you’ll feel anxious to get your family on track and get on with your new-normal lives. There are special education resources for autsim that can get you thinking about ways to get your house set up in a way that everyone, including your child with ASD, feels comfortable. There are ways to make travel, education, homeschooling and general life more manageable. While you’ll never find a perfect solution, you will find some great ideas that you can modify to work for your family.

  1. Autism Highway is a website created by a mom with a child on the spectrum. There is a forum for parents who want to ask questions or who can offer advice to others. Autism Highway also features articles by parents and experts. The blog allows you to follow the founder and her family as they travel up and down the California coast. She offers great tips for providing a “soft spot” for your child as you travel.
  2. Risk management is crucial for many families of children with ASD. Dennis Debbaudt was one of the first advocates for individuals with autism and their dealings with law enforcement back in the mid-1990’s. He continues to provide valuable information about keeping your child safe at home, at school and when your child is out-and-about.
  3. It’s normal to have days, weeks, months where you feel sorry for your child and sorry for yourself. Jamie Pacton’s words might help on those days. You can follow the links in her entry if you want to read other parents thoughts. You may also find the comments and the author’s follow-ups worthwhile.
  4. Everyone needs a break. While current federal funding does not provide for respite care, many states have a fund and other organizations will provide you with an afternoon, a day or even a weekend. Find out what your options are. Time on your own might feel selfish, but in the end your entire family will benefit.

3. Autism resources abound.

You can give your child a fulfilling childhood while respecting their abilities and needs. Although there are still far too many “why’s” out there regarding ASD, there is increasing acceptance in the general population that ASD is real and that the needs of kids with ASD are real. The resources below are just the tip of the iceberg. There are even a few guides to help you start your own program if your city is lacking.

  1. Including children with autism in after-school settings – created by the Boston Children’s Museum, this is a guide to creating an all-inclusive after school program.
  2. Look into a camp scholarship. While not all children with ASD are ready for an overnight camp, many are given the right circumstances. Each year, scholarships are offered for families who could not otherwise afford a summer camp for their child.
  3. Get physical! For some kids with ASD, gross motor skills lag. Without some intervention, these lagging skills can follow your child into adulthood. Take notes… Like anything, all of his advice might not work for you but some of it might. He offers and illustrated approach to some basic fitness skills and advice on how to implement it.
  4. Talk About Curing Autism has a great article on teaching your teen life skills. Life skills are the things your child needs to know about (self-care, staying safe and building self-esteem). With a bit of tweaking, this advice can be translated to work for elementary aged and middle school aged children as well.
  5. Special Needs Tutoring is an option which has grown considerably in popularity. With the school systems lack of available resources and increased class sizes, many parents are finding ways to supplement their child’s learning outside of the classroom. A special education tutor is trained to teach children in their own unique learning style, not a mass approach.

You will build your own network of autism resources and support your child to the utmost while still taking care of yourself. (Yes, this sounds utopian because it is. You will do the best you can. You will forgive yourself when things don’t go well. You cross-your-heart-and-all-that you will never try to be the Cleavers.) You are not alone. Spend some time. See what resources strike a chord in your heart and then get in touch! It’s not going to be easy, but it IS going to be okay.