Your child has an autism spectrum disorder.

It’s a sentence that so many parents never expect to hear. But since autism now affects 1 in 45 children in America today, millions of families across the country receive autism diagnoses every year.

The news of your child’s diagnosis may have taken you by surprise, or it may have been a long time coming. Either way, it has the potential to change everything from your daily routine to your relationships to your child’s education.

At FirstPath Autism, we understand how overwhelming the post-diagnosis period can be. As such, we’ve created this autism checklist to help you to get organized and take good care of yourself during this transition time.

Autism checklistConnect with fellow parents and realize that you’re not alone.

After the diagnosis, you might feel isolated and unsure of the best next steps for your family. Overcome these feelings by reaching out to local parent support organizations. Find out if there are support groups for autism parents in your area, or join a group online.Getting support for yourself is one of the best things you can do for your children

As you research and seek out support, you’ll find that there’s a wealth of information and solidarity available to you. Plus, connecting with others and getting support for yourself is one of the best things you can do for your child. As we wrote in our post, A guide to autism support for parents:“While every individual with autism is different, we know this to be true: the investment you make in your own support during this time will pay dividends for years to come.”

Autism ChecklistDownload free resources to guide you through. 

A great place to start is Autism Speaks’ 100 Day Kit, an extensive resource designed specifically for families with young children in the post-diagnosis period.

Also, be sure to check out our free downloadable autism checklists:

And if your family members and friends have questions about what it means to be on the autism spectrum, try directing them to our Autism Resource: Common questions about autism.

 checkbox.pngRead books and articles that give you a sense for the diversity of autism.

Read books and articles that give you a sense for the diversity of autism While an autism diagnosis can sometimes make your son or daughter’s future seem bleak, read books by inspiring self-advocates on the spectrum such as Temple GrandinKerry Magro, and Daniel Tammet. Or, watch this joy-inducing video of Ellen DeGeneres meeting Sam, the dancing Starbucks barista. Remember that your child’s potential likely goes above and beyond what you have been told, and that he or she still has infinite opportunities.

Autism checklistTake time to absorb the information; don’t make sudden moves or major life decisions.

An autism diagnosis can be big news for you and your loved ones. As such, take a beat and get your bearings. Try to refrain from making significant decisions for a few months. As a newly-minted “autism parent” you’re already in a time of change and transition—try not to add any unnecessary stress to you and your child’s life.

That being said, early intervention does matter, and of course you’ll want to ensure that your child is receiving the necessary behavioral supports. Here at FirstPath Autism, we recommend starting an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program as soon as possible in the post-diagnosis period.

 Autism checklistGet started with a professional, high-quality Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program.

ABA therapy is a scientifically- proven treatment for children with autism. It is the research-based process of helping individuals to change and improve specific behaviors.

ABA therapy is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Surgeon General, and most major psychological and psychiatric associations. In short, it’s an early intervention that actually works to promote healthy neurological development. Plus, it’s a helpful framework to help you learn about the reasons behind your child’s behaviors. As we wrote in our post, Autism Resource: What is ABA therapy?:

 “ABA approaches behavior from a place of curiosity. The focus isn’t on finding fault or casting blame, but on discovery. In a sense, you become a detective, adding up context clues and forming a picture of your child’s motivations and preferred modes of expression.”

If you’re having a hard time wrapping your mind around the news of your child’s diagnosis, we understand. It’s a lot to take in. But in this time of change, it’s important to remember what remains the same: your love for your child and your desire to support them in living a full life. Your child’s story doesn’t end with an autism diagnosis; rather, a new chapter begins.