I often get asked from friends, other parents, or concerned family members. What is autism? I have concerns with the development of my child, and I am not sure how to rule it out.
If you suspect your child has autism (a developmental disorder characterized by difficulty with social skills, communication, and behavior), you can find information from various resources. Seek out professionals who can help you.
If you are asking yourself this question, chances are there is a need to pursue help. Explore testing or assessments by a specialist. The one thing I can say as a parent having had this concern is listen to the voice inside you because it’s usually right. I’m sharing a few basic comadre tips from my own experience to help you.
- It’s important to monitor how your child is developing.
Child development can be a clear indicator of what your next steps should be. Let’s start with the age of the child. If your child isn’t school aged, you might want to begin with your pediatrician. Often your pediatrician will provide you with information on the ages and stages of child development with a chart or he/she may refer you to the Center For Disease Control Website. Here is the direct link. CDC Website for Developmental Milestones by age.
- You can also take a look at this online screening tool the M-CHAT.
The checklist doesn’t diagnose autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Rather, a high score indicates that a child should be referred for full diagnostic testing.
- Ask your pediatrician for a referral to the regional center or call the intake line for early intervention program. Early Intervention services are most effective when they are started before the child turns three.
California has 21 regional centers throughout the state that serve individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. Regional centers are nonprofit private corporations that contract with the Department of Developmental Services to provide or coordinate services and support for individuals with developmental disabilities.
- What if my child is school aged (age three and up)? How to I request help from my school district?
- Make a request for an assessment in writing.
There are five basic steps in the special education process: (1) Referral for Assessment; (2) Assessment; (3) The Individualized Education Program (IEP) Meeting; (4) Determination; and (5) IEP Review.
You can learn more information about what the process is and what to expect from on the following links:
- Are there any local agencies I can connect with for support?
- Yes, you can start with La Comadre. I also wrote a blog that might be help you: The Stew of Special Needs Education: Indispensable Basics for Every Caregiver
- Here is a short list of local organizations you can connect with for support, information or training:
The Autism Society Los Angeles, Foothill Autism Alliance, Special Needs Network, Team of Advocates for Special Kids, Autism Speaks, Public Council, Disability Rights California, Disability Rights Legal Center, Learning Rights Law Center, Parents Place FRC, Fiesta Educativa, and La Comadre.
- Find a local support group
I know this might be challenging for some of you given your schedules. But you have options, whether it be in person or online. Nowadays you can even find support groups on Facebook.
Lisette Medina Duarte
In addition to managing multiple outreach, volunteer, and advocacy campaigns, Lisette’s 20 years of administrative experience have included fundraising, engagement, events, and sponsorship procurement. She has served on several local and school district leadership committees, facilitates parent groups, conducts workshops, and is often invited to speak at conferences. She is currently a member of the advisory board for UCLA’s Tarjan Center and a member of the Empowerment Congress. She was appointed by former Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina to the state Council on Developmental Disabilities. She is also a member of the Community Police Advisory Board for the Northeast Los Angeles Police Department. She is also a consultant and board member for several California nonprofits. She works as a senior coordinator in field operations and development for a national nonprofit organization and is responsible for serving Los Angeles County, Orange County, and San Diego County.
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