When we become parents, we want the best for our children. This is especially true for their health. We view sonograms anxiously before they’re born, and we await word from the doctor that everything is as it should be when they arrive in this world. We take heed of every little cough and sneeze in an effort to keep them healthy. That’s one of the many reasons that a diagnosis of autism is so devastating.

Children with autism may display enough signs for a clear diagnosis before one year of age, and almost always do so by the time they’re three years old. The news that a child is autistic can feel devastating, but it doesn’t have to be. If we can keep our presence of mind, we can explore the options and get the best possible treatment for our children. With proper care, many autistic children can grow up to be independent and well-adjusted adults.

It’s hard to know exactly what to do if you’ve never been down this road before. Here are some tips to get you going in the right direction.

* Understand where your child is on the autism spectrum. The term “autism” is actually used interchangeably with several related disorders, each one with its own characteristics. Some forms of autism are mild enough that they won’t make a big difference in a child’s life, while others require more treatment. If you’re not sure where your child stands, talk to his doctor about it. And if he doesn’t explain it sufficiently, consider seeing another one.

* Learn about treatment options. There is currently no cure, but there are many treatment options that can produce favorable results. Therapy can improve an autistic child’s language and social skills, and medication can help alleviate emotional and physical symptoms.

* Get support. Raising an autistic child can be very trying, draining parents both physically and emotionally. Counseling and respite care can help parents cope with the challenges.

* Make sure the needs of your other children are met. Being the sibling of an autistic child presents its own unique challenges. Siblings may resent the extra attention the autistic child requires, and they may become frustrated with the questions and misunderstanding of others. Making special time for siblings and providing the opportunity for counseling will help them deal with these issues, and maybe even strengthen their relationships with their autistic brother or sister.

* Stay informed about new developments in the fight against autism. Autism still isn’t well understood by doctors, but research is beginning to provide some answers and bring forth ideas for new treatments. Staying on top of the latest autism news can give parents hope and encouragement.

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