Getting help and support for a child with autism

The bulk of the hard work to care for your child with autism will probably fall on your shoulders, and sometimes that load can be overwhelming. Planning and getting prepared to walk through this journey with your child becomes very important right from the get-go.

Get informed and connected. Start by looking into intervention programs and activities that your federal and provincial government may provide. The Health Canada website has further links to community workshops and services that will connect you to other families who are in your situation.

Get comfortable with the treatment program. People with autism vary greatly with the symptoms that affect them. Your child's doctor and other health care professionals (including speech therapists, occupational therapists, and psychiatrists) will recommend a blend of therapies that will fit your child's needs. Get comfortable with your child's treatment program - from being organized about therapy schedules to learning tips and therapeutic routines you can also apply at home.

Research your financial options. Because of the various therapies that are involved in an autism treatment program, it is important to have a financial resource plan. Check out what types of public financial aid and assistance are available to you (e.g., provincial health plans), what your insurance company may be able to supplement, and other autism networks that may provide financial grants and alternative solutions.

Expect lifestyle changes. Having a child with autism can mean many changes and sacrifices that your family will have to make. You may need to take out a second mortgage, take days off work to drive your child to and from their therapy sessions, change your family's eating habits, or add new safety measures and devices in your home. You may also want to consider getting your child an identification card or bracelet with emergency phone numbers.

Inform others. You can make the everyday experience better for your child with autism by speaking to their teachers, their caregivers, other family members, and even your neighbours, so that they are aware of your child's special needs and know what to do when you are not around. Explain to them how to communicate and respond to your child and empower them to connect better with your child.

Take care of yourself. This may come last on this list, but it is especially important and not any less significant. It is important not to allow yourself to get burnt out. Ask others to share your load so you can spend quiet time, alone or with your other half, to recuperate. Many parents also find it helpful to bond with other parents who are in similar situations. And it is a special bond, because it is built on the shared hope and tireless effort it takes to bring your child out of the world of autism and back into your world.

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