When my son Norrin was diagnosed with autism, I was completely lost. The pediatrician who diagnosed him recommended a list of services but offered little hope. I found myself feeling like Alice in Wonderland and I had just fallen down the rabbit hole. Navigating the special education system is complicated. It's been nearly seven years since Norrin's diagnosis and I feel comfortable in searching for resources; I know who to ask and where to look. But like so many parents, in those early years, I spent many hours scrambling, searching and scouring the internet for autism resources.
Research has shown that Latino children are often diagnosed far later than white children. While there are many factors that come into play, it comes down to accessibility and knowledge. If English-speaking parents are having difficulty knowing where to go or finding information, it's likely even tougher for Spanish-speaking families.
Here are 5 autism resources available in English and Spanish to help your family understand, cope and thrive with an autism diagnosis.
Easter Seals. When in doubt, check it out. Easter Seals strongly believes that the first five years of life count. While most parents eagerly anticipate each first — like the first step, smile or word — they acknowledge that many major milestones aren't as obvious. They created an age-specific Ages & Stages Questionnaires® (ASQ) — a free screening tool available through generous support of the CVS Caremark Charitable Trust — that can help you determine if your child's developmental progress is on schedule. What I like about this screening is that you can have an idea of where your child is before meeting with the pediatrician and use the screening as a guide to express your concerns to your doctor.
Autism Speaks. So your kid is diagnosed with autism... now what? Those first few months are critical. Autism Speaks has a "100 Day Kit for Newly Diagnosed Families of Young Children," which targets children 4 and younger so that families make the most of the first 100 days following their child's diagnosis. Autism Speaks has a guide for grandparents and other useful guides for parents and caregivers as well. If you have a specific question, you can reach out to the Autism Response Team (ART) and speak with individuals who are specially trained to provide families with information, resources and opportunities en Español at (888) 772-9050.
The Autism Society has been providing support for families for 50 years. From infants to adulthood, the Autism Society offers information through every stage of life for every member of the family — including treatments, spirituality, stress, siblings and future planning. The also suggest books on autism written in Spanish.
Project Autism is a one-stop destination site for autism families to get quality information in the form of training, a comprehensive resource list, research information, and information on current community events. Project Autism offers a great education and training series for parents and caregivers including information on self-help, sensory, sibling support and working with schools. The Project Autism blog is also translated into Spanish.
"The Other Kid/El Otro Niño" by Lorraine Donlon. The Other Kid is an excellent learning tool for parents, grandparents, educators, special education service providers and social workers. Targeted for children between 5 and 12 years old, The Other Kid validates the complex feelings of being the sibling to a brother or sister with special needs. Donlon created "The Other Kid" as a coloring book so that very small children can be reassured "the feelings they were experiencing were nothing to be ashamed of — and actually a very normal response to a very stressful situation." By allowing them to express their feelings through art and writing, it gives parents insight into what "the other kid" is feeling so concerns can be addressed in a loving and supportive way.