A diagnosis of Autism can bring upon a wide range of emotions that are unique for each individual and family circumstances. For some it’s a great sense of relief to finally have a diagnosis to help understand what is going on for their child, for others it’s a sense of shock and disbelief, and for others it may bring feelings of anxiousness and uncertainty of what the future holds.
Regardless of the emotion or emotions experienced, it can be a daunting process trying to navigate the waters of ‘what do we do next?’ We have created a blog post to provide some succinct information and guidance of what families can do to take that next step in moving forward from a diagnosis.
so ‘what do we do next?’
Early intervention refers to the provision of therapy and services as early in a child’s life as possible, to support the development of skills required to take part in everyday activities and to be included in family and community life.
Early intervention services are typically provided in the period between birth and school entry. This is a time of remarkable brain development, particularly relating to learning and skill attainment. Supports provided through early intervention can change a child’s developmental path and have significant life-long impacts, including reducing the amount of supports needed later in life.
Your child may have a team of early intervention providers, including:
- Occupational therapy
- Behavioural therapy
- Speech therapy
- Physical therapy
- Swimming lessons and aquatic programs
The best interventions are those that target all areas of your child’s development, social and communication skills, and behaviour. They should be adapted to your child’s strengths and weaknesses, and fit within your family’s priorities and goals. Autism Spectrum Australia, otherwise known as ASPECT is Australia’s largest Autism specific service provider. They are a great resource as they have a wide range of Autism specific information, as well as how to find services that are local to you and meet your child’s needs.
What do I need to know about Autism Swim for my child?
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are 160 times more likely to drown than their neurotypical peers. Autism Swim is to here change this.
58% of parents of children with ASD report wandering/elopement as the most stressful of ASD behaviours and only 50% of parents of children with ASD have received advice about wandering prevention from a professional.
Whilst there is perhaps nothing scarier than thinking about the safety of your little one, help IS available.
Autism Swim is the ONLY organisation in the world dedicated exclusively to wandering and drowning prevention for those who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or other abilities. You can now have clinical training, resources and support at your fingertips, covering a number of things relating to:
Wandering and Drowning Prevention. Get started with the Wandering and drowning prevention kit available here.
Specialist Clinical Support: We have a team of Occupational Therapists and behaviour specialists available to provide tailored therapy supports for you and your family in the context of your own home. Find out more here.
Although support is individualised to meet the child and family’s needs, some examples include:
- Functional Analysis’
- Positive Behaviour Support Plans
- Advice on tracking devices and safety considerations
- Household routines
- Wandering Prevention
- Self-care skills (toileting, dressing, feeding, showering)
- Creating a sensory diet at home
- Parent coping
- Assessments (depending on assessment type)
A Database of Autism Swim Approved Providers: find aquatic professionals in your local area and be confident that they have the expertise and the resources to provide safe and enjoyable aquatic environments for your child as they learn to swim and be safer around bodies of water. Find a local provider here: and learn more about what to look for in an aquatic program:
Benefits of swimming lessons as apart of early intervention
Attendance in regular swimming lessons has been found to reduce the risk of children aged 1-4 drowning by 40-88%. Not only are swimming lessons important for safety reasons, there are also a number a benefits for a child’s overall development.
Participation in swimming lessons during the early years of life have also been found to support children with achieving developmental milestones. Consistent attendance at swimming lessons supports children to develop skills which are needed for transitioning into school and other organised learning environments, for example opportunities to practice social skills, language and communication, motor and cognitive development.
Many children with Autism experience more success and are more motivated to attain new movement skills in an aquatic environment. This may be related to the buoyancy of the water and the decreased effects of gravity, which are suggested to allow the child to practice important play skills with less difficulty than land based play.
Looking after yourself
Taking time out to look after yourself both physically and mentally is extremely important as a parent overall, but particularly during this time period. It can be difficult to take time out for yourself when trying to navigate ‘where to next?’ However, for the best results for your child and your family, you need to be looking after yourself too.
Self-care will look different for everyone however some ideas include:
- Doing 30 minutes of exercise daily
- Eating a variety of fruit and vegetables
- Scheduling time for yourself each week
- Booking in a therapy session for yourself
- Having a relaxing bath
- Reading a book
- Organising a catch up with friends
- Reconnecting with an old hobby you enjoy.
There are many support groups, in person and online that can provide a supportive network, as well as provide an opportunity to hear other’s experiences throughout similar processes. Parent’s often report that it is most helpful to have other parents who understand what they are experiencing and going through, in best supporting their own mental health.
You can read about other parent’s experiences here: https://raisingchildren.net.au/autism/learning-about-autism/about-autism/asd-the-future or register for an ‘Early Days’ Workshop here: