Suspect autism? Looking for 'autism help?' If you live in the U.S. these are the steps you should take. To be technical, if you suspect your child has any disability and you live in the US these are the steps you should take to get your child the help he or she needs. Autism help is not far away. There are plenty of resources in place to help you and to help your child. Even if your child does not have autism he may be eligible to receive services such as speech therapy, behavioral therapy, and more depending on his deficits and the severity of those deficits.
Get Plugged in to Your Local Parent Center
If you don't follow any other step at least do this one. As the parent of a child with autism I can tell you that you will find no better autism help than at parent centers. The fact is that no other agency out there cares more about you and your child than parent centers. And let me use a little metaphor here; You can't coach the team if you haven't played the game. They're well trained and they're walking down the same path as you.
Parent centers are funded by private donors as well as the state and federal government to assist families of children with disabilities, and that includes autism. They can offer you autism help in heaping bunches! Even if the parent center that serves your county is located in another county they can still talk to you on the phone, answer your questions, and guide you through the process of getting help and it's all FREE.
Trust me, you'll find the parent center to be a HUGE help. These parent centers are often staffed with other parents of children with disabilities. They care! Make the parent center your "home base" and ask them to advise you.
To locate the parent center that serves your area call toll free 1−888−248−0822. You can also visit the National Parent Center's website to find this information.
Get with the Program
"My child is under age 3." You need to locate "Part C" services. This refers to that part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (federal law) that serves children with disabilities in early childhood. Your parent center can help you find your Part C program. That program will likely offer lots of help, handle case management, and fund several resources for autism help. In California it's called Early Start and that program is mainly handled by the Regional Centers. Before your child can receive services he must be evaluated. You need to get the name and address of the program that offers early intervention or Part C services. In California, to find out which Regional Center covers your county, and to get their contact information, go to this page on the Dept. of Developmental Services' website.
"My child is between the ages of 3 and 5." You need to call the County Office of Education and ask for the name of the person in charge of early childhood special education. Just get the name and address and move onto step 3. Trust me.
"My child is 5 or older." Get the name and address of the Special Education Administrator of the school district you reiside in. To find the Special Ed. Administrator's name and address call the school you live closest to. Give them your address and verify your district. They can give you the information you need. A word of caution; Don't think a phone conversation will get things going! Get the information you need and move on to Step 3.
Put it in Writing
Following step 2 you now need to write a letter. It is important that you write a letter because once it's in writing the timelines put forth by the law are enacted. Phone calls mean nothing. You want everything in writing, whether it be handwriting or typed up!
In your letter write your child's name and birth date. Also write that you suspect your child has autism or some related disability and you'd like to get him fully assessed and evaluated because you believe that he might need services. Make sure you give your contact information including your home address. Before you send off the letter, or deliver it in person, make a copy for your records. Get used to keeping organized records of your contacts and requests regarding this.
Everything else will take off from here. And if you're plugged in with your parent center you can give them a call at any time for help or advice or just an ear to listen.
This is the beginning of autism help. You can do it!