Take steps to minimize stress of caring for a child with autism spectrum disorder

Caring for a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder can be a stressful experience, but there is also hope, says a child psychiatrist at UT Southwestern Medical Center. 

“The process of diagnosing a child and exploring treatment options can be overwhelming,” says Dr. Catherine Karni, an autism expert. “Finding the time and money to pursue those treatments can also be challenging.”

Dr. Karni, however, notes that there are steps a parent can take to improve this process:

• Obtain a diagnosis from a qualified professional. This could be a developmental pediatrician, but if the signs and symptoms are more complex or exist with a co-occurring diagnosis, you may opt for a multidisciplinary assessment. This might include psychiatrists, psychologists, speech/language pathologists, occupational therapists, neurologists or other specialists.
• Trust your instincts and find a provider who will take time to listen to your concerns.
• Don’t be afraid. Become educated about autism and learn what it means in terms of daily living.
• Intervene sooner rather than later. Most research concludes that early intervention can help your child make substantial gains in the short and long term. The professional who provided your assessment should include in the written report a list of recommended treatments.
• Consider how this diagnosis specifically affects your child’s daily functioning. How does your child communicate what he needs? What steps can you take to communicate effectively with your child?
• Don’t let the diagnosis keep you from parenting, loving, playing with or disciplining your child.
• Learn the special education process and find a logical and calm family advocate who can attend meetings with you.
• Get thoughts out of your head and onto paper.

 “You may feel pressure to involve your child in the latest and most expensive treatments,” Dr. Karni says. “Don’t necessarily believe what you read on the Internet or watch on television. Educate yourself on the definition of ‘empirically supported treatments.’ ”

To learn more about mental health clinical services, including child and adolescent psychiatry, visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/mentalhealth

Media Contact: lakisha.ladson@utsouthwestern.edu">LaKisha Ladson

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