BUILD YOUR TEAM
Building your team
Having a child with autism is not a one-person job. It takes a team of qualified specialists and therapists to make progress.
For some, assembling the team that will provide services to a loved one is an organic process, based on personalities and “feel.” For others, it entails a lot of research and questions.
Regardless of your approach, here are a few helpful suggestions:
LEARN ABOUT AUTISM: The more you know, the more capable you’ll be of making informed decisions for your child. Become familiar with the types of treatments available and common terms used within the autism community.
KNOW YOUR CHILD: You are the expert! Understand his or her strengths and weaknesses and what triggers adaptive and maladaptive behaviors. Observe if your child best learns by seeing, listening, or doing. Knowing how your child responds will make it easier to choose the treatments that will make a difference and the people who will be the best fit for your child’s learning style.
ASK QUESTIONS: There is a huge variety of approaches available for autism. Talk to experts about what approach should be used and why. Ask how each therapy will benefit your child, specifically. There are many “treatments” for autism that have not been validated scientifically but are supported by parents and the individuals who provide them. We recommend that you ask a lot of questions and do some research before selecting a treatment that does not have empirical evidence to support its effectiveness.
HAVE SPECIFIC GOALS: Of course you want your child to improve, but what behaviors are causing the most problems? Various treatments focus on behavior, speech and language, play, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and nutrition. What are your child’s biggest obstacles? The goal should be to target and treat all of his or her symptoms and needs, focusing on his/her biggest needs first.
DON’T’ GIVE UP: It takes the right kind of therapies and specialists to make progress. Be alert about how your child responds, and don’t be afraid to make changes if the first team or service provider you select is not the right fit. Like everyone, it takes time for people with autism to grow and develop their abilities.
QUESTIONS TO ASK
Good Questions to Ask
When it’s time to select a service provider, therapist, or other professional to work with your child, here are some questions we recommend you ask:
1. Can you provide a basic developmental screening for autism?
2. Does your assessment include a printed report, outlining my child’s unique strengths and challenges?
1. Do you offer ABA-based therapy?
2. What specific activities can be done at home to support my child’s progress?
3. Will you or your agency work with my child’s teachers at school?
4. Can you refer me to other families you have worked with in the past?
5. What happens during a typical treatment session?
6. How involved are parents and primary caregivers in the day-to-day delivery of my child’s program?
7. How many hours of therapy per week will my child need?
8. Do you provide weekly/monthly reports on my child’s progress?
9. Do you provide training and support for families?
10. What type of data do you collect and how often do you collect data?
1. What are the qualifications of your therapists regarding Applied Behavior Analysis?
2. How much and what type of training do they receive?
3. Will my child’s program be supervised by a Master’s level supervisor with a BCBA?
Communicating with your team
Since you are the person on your child’s team who knows your child the best, you are the team’s captain.
And like any good captain, you want every team member to do what they do best while keeping an eye on the team’s goals. We encourage you to let the professionals guide you and share their strategies with you. The strategies they teach you are critical to your child’s success. If you can use these strategies as often as possible and as consistently as possible, your child will progress more quickly.
Ideally, every member of your team will communicate with each other, sharing information and recommendations. If providers are from different agencies, you may need to initiate or request collaboration. Openly share your goals and expectations with your team, and don’t be afraid to ask questions so that everyone is clear and confident about the direction the team is heading. And while they are the experts in their field, always remember that you are the expert of your child.
WHEN TO CHANGE
When to make a change
With each new stage of your child’s development come new goals and potential challenges to address. There may be times when there is a plateau or even regression of progress. At these times, it may be necessary to make a change, such as adding Occupational Therapy, joining a Social Skills Group, or changing the ABA program. .
Talk to your team and your child and remember to trust your parental instincts.
Communicating with your team will help you troubleshoot, stay flexible with your program, and plan ahead.
You may want to visit AST’s What Your Child Needs Now page for suggestions and options at each stage of development. (link)