Updated: Dec 12, 2019
When your child first receives a diagnosis of autism it can be overwhelming. It feels like there is so much to do and so many questions. What can I do to help my child? What therapies will best help him? Does she need medication? What do I need to know? Finding answers can be challenging. Here are five places to find info on autism.
Pediatrician, specialist or therapist
By far, the best place to go for information on autism is your child’s medical provider or specialist. A general practitioner should be able to direct you to resources or refer you to a specialist provider. If your child already sees a specialist, such as a developmental pediatrician, that person should have a wealth of information available. They see special needs children all day, every day, and should be able to answer any questions you have. If they can’t, they’ll be able to help you find the answer.
Does your child see a speech therapist, or receive special education services? Other members of your child’s team, outside of your child’s medical provider, can also be a good place to go for info on autism; however, they might not be able to give much information beyond their area of expertise. A speech therapist might only have information about communication difficulties on the autism spectrum, and a special education teacher will likely only be able to speak about educational impact. Like your child’s medical provider, they will be able to help you find the information you need if they don’t know the answers themselves.
Major children’s hospitals
Major children’s hospitals are also a good place to find information on autism. Many of them offer classes and seminars for parents of children with autism, or at the very least, have information about such events in the community. You can also use their websites as a good starting point for online research about the autism spectrum. The websites might offer information about local resources, or even just info about autism in general.
It’s easy to feel very alone when you first learn: my child has autism. As you get your child set up with therapy appointments, or special education services, you will meet many other parents who also have a child with autism. These parents can be a wealth of information on autism and parenting a child with autism because they are living it, just like you. You might meet in the waiting room of your child’s occupational therapist, or at a class party, or a social media group. However you meet, it's important to keep in mind that their child is not your child, and their experience while informative might not be an exact match for your experience. The most useful types of info about autism you might receive from other parents would include the names of doctors and therapists they’ve found to be particularly good, the inside scoop on your local school district, and helpful books on autism symptoms.
Speaking of books, there are tons of books with great information on autism and parenting an autistic child. There are even more books about how to address your child’s specific needs, such as communication or managing emotions. These books can be very useful sources of info about autism signs, but how do you know which books are really worth purchasing and adding to your collection? Your local library will likely have many of these books available. Use their resources to determine which ones you only want to read once before returning to the library, and others you may find so valuable you want to add them to your home library. Many libraries also have book-sharing programs with other libraries. If there’s a book you are looking for that your library doesn’t have, there’s a good chance your librarian can help you get it.
The Internet has a vast array of information on just about everything, and the autism spectrum is no exception. Be mindful about the sources you use to find info on autism, as you would with anything else you source on the Internet. There are plenty of excellent websites that will give you fantastic information. Other websites have great information but have their own biases you should take into consideration. For example, they might not present certain types of autism research if it doesn't support their personal stance on controversial issues. Incidentally, the Internet is also a great place to find other parents of autistic children. Facebook has a number of groups focused in local areas dedicated to parenting children with special needs including.
Autism can be a scary diagnosis because so much is unknown. Fortunately, lots of info on autism does exist, if you know where to look. This information can be very valuable on your journey of helping your autistic child. Just remember, once you begin sourcing information, it’s always a good idea to check in with your child’s medical provider before changing care plans, or if you have questions about information you've found on your own. If you don’t agree with your child’s doctor, you can always get a second opinion!