In the medical field, there are certain diagnoses that are straightforward. My oldest son has asthma. For that, he needs an inhaler, a steroid, and an occasional nebulizer treatment.
No, asthma isn’t always a walk in the park. We continuously work with the doctors to adjust his meds, and pneumonia is always a concern. But in terms of services and treatment options, asthma is pretty cut-and-dry.
The same is true with many other diagnoses. There’s a plan put in place, several medications to choose from, and finite protocols that everyone follows.
This is not the case for children on the autism spectrum. When my son was diagnosed 9 months ago, the doctor handed me a folder and sent me on my way.
Over the past few months, I’ve stumbled through literature on ASD, joined countless Facebook groups, and attended seminars. And I still don’t feel like I have a handle on things.
The spectrum is so large and diverse, every child has his or her own unique needs. So when it comes to services and supports, parents play a much larger role.
Some days I wish I were a doctor. Other days, I wish I were a lawyer. But I’m not.
So I continue to sift through the literature, and I reach out to other parents and autistic adults who have more experience than me.
It’s not easy being the new-mom-on-the-block. And these other parents know that. So in an effort to pay it forward, I want to share a few services I recently found.
1. Free Diapers Delivered to Your Door
Generally, children with autism spend a longer time in diapers. A lack of communication skills and self awareness can slow down the potty training process.
Some autistic children need diapers for a very long time… until the teenage years and beyond.
Fortunately, diapers and other incontinence supplies are covered by Medicaid. Any child who has a relevant diagnosis and is past the typical potty training age (3 or 4 years old) can benefit from this service.
Every state has their own process, so ask your doctor or case worker how to get started. You may need to turn in a prescription. Or you may simply need to call the home delivery service.
I have 2 children in diapers. One with an autism diagnosis, and one with a developmental delay. Both of them are eligible for this service.
If you have private insurance, check to see if incontinence supplies are covered. If not, call the home delivery service provider anyway. They may be able to bill under a medical code that your insurance accepts.
2. A Handicapped Parking Placard
Parking lots can be a scary place. Many children with autism lack awareness of their surroundings. They also show little regard to safety and have low impulse control.
For these reasons, autism is included as a neurological impairment in many states, allowing parents to obtain a permanent handicap placard.
Ask your doctor to fill out the one-page form. You can choose between a plate or placard. Simply mail it in, or take it to your local DMV.
Every state has different requirements. So be sure to check your local guidelines.
3. Free Admissions and Special Events
Going on outings can be tricky when your child is on the spectrum. I always wonder how my children will react to a new environment.
Will their anxiety kick in? Can they handle the noises, crowds, and lines? Will they have a complete meltdown? Is it even worth the trip?
Thankfully, the parents and autistic adults who came before us have worked very hard to help make our outings less stressful. Many businesses and destinations have become more aware of autism and other disabilities.
Some businesses have special “sensory friendly” hours. Our local trampoline park opens extra hours for people with special needs to jump in a more relaxing environment.
During the height of tourist season, our aquarium opened early one day so kids with special needs could come see the animals without the crowds. It felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.
Lots of movie theaters offer sensory friendly showings every week. They turn down the volume and turn up the lights so the theater isn’t quite as scary.
Other destinations offer discounted or free admissions to people with disabilities and their carers. Our local zoo allows any person with an ADA recognized condition and a companion free admission.
Even theme parks offer special accommodations. So instead of giving up on the idea of going out, make a few calls first. You might be pleasantly surprised.
If you’re new to life on the spectrum, don’t despair! You’re not navigating these waters alone. All you have to do is ask, and someone will be more than happy to help you.
Make sure you reach out to autistic adults and other parents. Join a local autism Facebook group or attend a meet up through the Autism Society of America. You can find your local ASA chapter here.
What services or resources have you found helpful? Maybe one that surprised you?
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Thanks to Purple Plumeria Photography, Chris, and Brooklyn for the beautiful featured picture!