Even if bedwetting isn’t a challenge for you, finding a doctor who understands autism may be an obstacle you’ll need to overcome. Why? Unless a doctor has had experience with autism, it will be unlikely that they will be able to help effectively diagnose and treat the condition. Autism is not a simple pervasive development disorder that can be fixed with medication or a few trips to the psychiatrist. It is a serious disorder that affects people differently, making each case specific to the individual.
Therefore, regardless if you or your child’s pediatrician suspects autism, it is imperative to your child and their future that they are referred to someone who specializes in diagnosing and treating autism spectrum disorders. This means your child may require more than one medical professional who specializes in autism.
The following is a list of medical professionals that might make up the multidisciplinary assessment team an autistic child requires:
• Child psychiatrist – Can help determine the initial diagnosis, prescribes medications, and helps an autistic deal with social relationships and developing emotional behavior.
• Clinical psychologist – Specialist who understands the impact and nature of autism and other development disability disorders. They may conduct a psychological assessment test and assist with the training of social skills and modifying behavior.
• Development pediatrician – treats children with health problems related to handicaps or delays in development.
• Language/speech therapist – Helps to improve communication skills, focusing on language and speech.
• Occupational therapist – Focuses on helping those with disabilities develop daily practical and self-help skills such as eating and getting dressed. They may also focus on fine motor skills, sensory integration and coordination of movement.
• Physical therapist – Helps a child improve their coordination and motor skills by strengthening muscles, joints, nerves and bones
• Social Worker – Can help arrange treatments and services and can provide counseling services.
Once you find the professionals your child needs, it is imperative that you work closely with them. The reason is because although professionals have experience with autism, you are the most experienced when it comes to the specific information regarding your child’s needs and abilities.
To effectively work together with professionals you need to:
• Educate yourself – Learn as much as you can about autism
• Prepare yourself- Write down any questions or concerns you have regarding your child, autism or treatment and address them with the professional(s)
• Open communication – You don’t have to agree with everything a professional says. If you disagree with a recommendation voice your opinion.
If you are unsure where you can find the right professionals that specialize in autism, the following are some helpful suggestions:
• In your community – Visit your health care provider, hospital, or pharmacist and ask them if they know anyone who specializes in diagnosing and treating autism. You can also contact your government’s health department. Just remember, even if you are referred to someone, this may not be the specialist you are looking for. Don’t be afraid to find out their experience before making a commitment.
• Internet resources – The internet is a fantastic resourced and has plenty of useful and helpful information about autism, understanding and effectively helping autistics, and how to get help in your community. Some excellent websites you can check out include:
o Autism Society of America (autism-society.org)
o Autism Treatment Services of Canada (autisim.ca)
o National Autistic Society (nas.org.uk)
• Support group – Getting involved in a support group that is designed to reach out to autistics and their families can be extremely helpful for finding a professional, as you can ask fellow members for recommendations. Support groups also provide you with encouragement when times are tough, and allow you the opportunity to discuss autism with others who know what you are experiencing.