A Cleveland autism diagnosis can leave parents reeling – even when it’s something you’ve been expecting as you awaited the results of ADOS testing and other examinations. Sometimes, it can feel like something of a relief. You finally have answers. But there’s also the daunting next question: What now?
Parents face a lot of uncertainties, siblings may not understand (or may have much anxiety if they do), and the child who was diagnosed may not yet understand the implications – but can still sense shifts in emotional tone throughout the home.
Autism, more formally known as Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by difficulties with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and non-verbal communication. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that autism affects 1 in 44 children in the U.S. today. Our dedicated team of speech therapists, ABA therapists, occupational therapists, and educators offers help to families in Cleveland, Brecksville, Broadview Heights, and Akron.
No. 1: Breathe
The very first thing to do after a Cleveland autism diagnosis is BREATHE. Autism is a lifelong condition – and that in itself can feel very intimidating as you contemplate your next steps. But know that in most cases, the symptoms can be managed. Behaviors can be managed with help. Your child can lead a long, healthy, meaningful, successful life.
You have already taken the very hardest step in all of this, which is seeking professional intervention when you recognized something wasn’t quite right. You persisted in pursuing answers – even when you knew the answers might pose challenges you might not feel ready to face. You did this because you love your child.
Now that they have an autism diagnosis, give yourself a few beats to catch your breath, acknowledge your own feelings, and prepare yourself for the next chapter. Your engagement and advocacy will be pivotal to your child’s success, and it’s important that you’re in a good mental/emotional space to do so. Online support groups through Facebook and other social media channels can be especially helpful as you embark on this journey.
No. 2: Explore Early Intervention
The next/first step is to get help. Your options may vary depending on your child’s age. Do not worry that your child may be too young. A child can receive a Cleveland autism diagnosis as young as 18 months, and early intervention therapies are strongly recommended to start before a child turns 3.
In Northeast Ohio, we have a program called Help Me Grow for infants and toddlers birth to age 3 with a medical diagnosis or developmental delay, as well as for families concerned about their child’s development. They help work on things like speech delays, social interaction help with other kids, etc.
Services and specialists may include:
- occupational therapy
- speech therapy
- physical therapy
- developmental specialist
- early childhood mental health therapy
- registered dietician
- vision and hearing specialists
You may need to obtain a referral to early intervention from your pediatrician or pediatric specialist. In Cuyahoga County, it takes about 45 days from the referral to complete the eligibility, assessment, individual family service plan, and then finally the beginning of early intervention services. There has been something of a backlog since COVID, so it’s a good idea to get this process started as soon as possible.
No. 3: Start Looking at Private Therapy
Early intervention is provided as a public service. But children with autism can also benefit from private therapy services. In the beginning, the schedule of these services may be intensive, ultimately tapering off as they reach their goals and milestones.
Children with autism are often referred for a combination of therapy services, including:
- Speech Therapy
- Occupational Therapy
- Applied Behavioral Analysis (also known as ABA or behavior therapy)
Therapy & Wellness Connection offers all of these – and more – and insurance covers most if not all of these services if your child has been diagnosed with autism. We can provide these services in-clinic, in-home, and sometimes in school or daycare. Some patients may be eligible to receive some of these services via teletherapy.
The key with these services is consistency. Intensive therapy, particularly early on, can feel a bit overwhelming when it’s 3-4 times a week (longer stretches with ABA therapy), but showing up and being actively engaged in the carryover is important.
If your child is school-age, the school should begin the process of drafting an IEP, or individualized education plan. If you find ultimately that your child’s school and IEP fail to serve their best interests, there are scholarships available to enroll them in private education, with teachers who will teach the way they learn. Therapy & Wellness Connection offers homeschooling and other education services with credentialed special teachers and intervention specialists.
No. 4: Engage With a Social Skills Group
Among the most significant deficits many kids on the autism spectrum face are communication and social skills. They’re going to need as much practice as they can – early and often. And it’s a lot of pressure to just put on a sibling or two. Joining a Cleveland social skills group for kids with autism can help them make significant strides.
We offer several different social skills groups, sorted by age, at our Brecksville clinic. These include:
- Say-n-Play. This is an awesome group that focuses on social interactions and activities like crafts, songs, games, and books. It helps children with speech-language difficulties, but also following directions and engaging with others in a group setting.
- OT Group. This focuses on zones of regulation, social interaction, and skills of daily life. We take fun “field trips,” play games, and work on group projects.
- Thrive Social Center Courses. These include everything from learning social boundaries to getting along with friends to teens & technology, to young adult groups.
This extra support will help prepare kids for real-world scenarios and interactions, helping them make friends, stay safe, and be included.
No. 5: Learn to Listen Without Your Ears.
If your child has received a Cleveland autism diagnosis and is non-verbal or speech-delayed, it can be very frustrating to know what they want, what they don’t want, how you can help, and how to parent them. But just because they aren’t talking doesn’t mean they aren’t communicating. Remember that behavior itself is a form of communication, and kids on the spectrum may be engaging in “unexpected” behaviors to communicate wants, needs, or aversions.
ABA Therapy is extremely helpful in addressing unexpected behaviors and promoting those that are expected and helpful. Speech therapy can help with non-verbal communication, articulation, and social pragmatics. Occupational therapy can help kids tackle critical life skills like self-regulation, measuring the size of a problem, diversifying their diet, self-care, etc.
But in the meantime, recognize that just because they aren’t talking doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to say. You may be your child’s voice for the foreseeable future. It’s important to try your best to engage them at every opportunity, and understand what’s NOT being said.
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides ABA therapy to children in Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Cleveland, Akron, and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.
What is Autism? AutismSpeaks.com
More Blog Entries:
Cleveland ABA Therapy Strategies, May 5, 2022, Cleveland Autism Treatment Blog
Registration is now open for Thrive Summer Camp 2022, hosted by Therapy & Wellness Connection. Headquartered at our Brecksville pediatric therapy clinic, kids of all ages & abilities are welcome. Camp activities are therapist-led, meaning our speech, occupational, physical, and ABA therapists design, lead, and supervise all activities. We welcome not only our patients, but their siblings, friends, and other kids in the Northeast Ohio communities of Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Cleveland, and Akron to join us for fun-filled days of crafts, games, and field trips that allow kids to explore the world around them, practice important life skills, and forge meaningful friendships and connections. Our camps fill up fast, so be sure to register as early as possible!
The Summer Camp 2022 Registration Form has been updated to reflect this year’s dates – June 13-Aug. 19th (off the week of July 4th) – with new themes each week. You can also visit our Thrive Summer Camp 2022 Page to learn more.
Summer Camp FormThrive Summer Camp Registration Form
If you don’t receive confirmation of your submission within 24 hours, contact us by calling (330) 748-4807 or emailing email@example.com to make sure we’ve received your registration.
Ohio kids eagerly look forward to summer camp every year. It’s a unique opportunity to enjoy beautiful weather, make new friends and mentors, see cool places, learn new skills and leave with a treasure trove of memories. This year, emerging from a pandemic that has been especially difficult for families of kids who are differently-abled, summer camp is going to be extra special. At Therapy & Wellness Connection, we offer an inclusive Brecksville summer camp for kids of all ages and abilities. It’s more than just a benefit to the families of the patients we serve in speech, occupational, ABA and physical therapy. We truly believe that when we bring kids of all abilities together, everyone is better for it.
In the U.S., 1 in 7 kids has a developmental disability. Although the Americans With Disabilities Act prohibits exclusion of a child from a summer camp program on the basis of disabilities, the truth of the matter is it can be difficult to find a summer camp you trust with your child.
We’re committed to creating a Brecksville summer camp that is not only dynamic and fun for all kids of all abilities, but that is therapist-led and helps keep all kids safe, engaged and learning.
Kids with disabilities should experience summer camp as fully and joyfully as their typically-developing peers. Research shows that when kids get a chance to participate in activities and games with their peers on a daily basis, they learn and develop both individual and teamwork skills. There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that interactions in these non-academic settings are extremely important in promoting many positive outcomes for participants – including improvement of social skills, communication, self-esteem and, ultimately, social acceptance.
Every child deserves the chance to experience the magic of summer camp – and children of all abilities benefit when they can experience it together! This Sunday, April 14th, we invite families to attend our Thrive Summer Camp Open House at Therapy & Wellness Connection to learn more about our therapist-led, inclusive Brecksville summer camp for children with special needs that welcomes children of ALL abilities and all ages.
Families who join us at our Brecksville Road location from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. will have the opportunity to meet the speech, occupational, physical and ABA therapists who run Thrive Summer Camp, play fun games, enjoy some great food, learn more about our programming AND enter drawings for chances to win FREE weeks at summer camp!
Parents are finding an increasing number of options for Northeast Ohio summer camps for children with special needs, which is excellent news considering the choices were paltry even just a few years ago. Two aspects (of many) that make Thrive Summer Camp so exceptional:
- We are an INCLUSIVE summer camp. Inclusion means that we welcome children with special needs, as well as their siblings, friends and all others of any age who want to join. Inclusion is a top goal of Therapy & Wellness Connection because we believe all children benefit with ample opportunities to engage with others whose skills and perspective are different from their own.
- We are THERAPIST-LED. That means no matter what challenges your child faces, therapists are right there ensuring they are safe, supported and that their therapy goals are carried over in every activity we host. Whether it’s exploring the MetroParks, venturing out to the Akron Zoo, learning about horses (and maybe taking a ride) at a local equine center or discovering the wonders of flight at a local aviation facility, we make sure our kids are making memories – and learning/reinforcing skills that will last a lifetime.