To help recognize Autism Awareness Month, Dr. Catherine Lord, Director of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell & Columbia and a leading authority on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), offers families guidance and tips following a child’s diagnosis within the ASD.
* Have Hope. Things get better. There are changes every day in what we can do to help people with ASD.
* Your Child is an Individual. Remember your child is first of all his or her own unique person, then a child, then a child with strengths and difficulties, and only then a child with ASD.
* Have a Strong Support System. Find people whom you can trust to support you, and then to support you as a parent of a child with autism.
* Find Credible Sources. Find sources of information that you can trust. You will hear many contradictory pieces of information. Figure out where you can check about new ideas.
* Enjoy Each Other. Be sure to every day do things that you enjoy and that your child enjoys. While opportunities for learning are important, shared enjoyment is even more important in a family.
* Set Goals. Think of a few reasonable goals you would like your child to accomplish – small things that you think he or she can almost do. Try to concentrate on figuring out how to accomplish these goals. These goals should not be long-term plans or big goals.
* Make Time For Your Spouse. Make sure to have some time for you and your partner every day, even if it is just a few minutes, where you focus on each other, and not the child. Stick up for each other’s needs and perspectives as you consider what you will do for your child.
* Be Involved. Children with ASD who come from families who devote time to learning and playing with them show more improvements than families who are less involved.
* Have reasonable expectations for your child’s behavior. Do not let your child do things (like bite people or climb on counters) that you would not let another child of the same age do. Do not punish, but respond quickly and distract if things are not going well.
* Find the resources in your community. Other parents are important sources of information. Use them, but every child with ASD is different so stick up for what you think are the needs of your child.
About Dr. Catherine Lord
Dr. Catherine Lord is the Director of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell & Columbia. She is a clinical psychologist who co-developed some of the key diagnostic tools to help clinicians recognize autism in individuals of varying ages. Dr. Lord is renowned for her research in the field, especially longitudinal studies of children with autism that observe the progression of their social development and communication skills. The focus of her research is often to find more effective ways to treat patients.
Dr. Lord has been honored repeatedly for her work and has received the Patricia Buehler Legacy Award for Clinical Innovation from the American College of Occupational Therapy; the Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Clinical Psychology from the Society of Clinical Psychology; and the Asperger/ Kanner Medal from the Free University of Berlin. She chaired the Committee on Effectiveness of Early Intervention in Autism for the National Research Council and is currently on the DSM-V Neurodevelopmental Disorders Committee.