13 Necessary Next Steps for Parents After an Autism Diagnosis

According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), about 1 in 68 children has been identified as being autistic, with boys being approximately 4.5 times more likely to be diagnosed than girls. The latter detail is still being debated, as autism diagnosis criteria were developed primarily with data from boys, autism presents differently in girls, and girls may be better at masking their difficulties in order to fit in with their peers; all of which may mean that the occurrence of autism is even higher.

The increased diagnosis of autism means that many families are struggling to understand and come to terms with what this means for their child and their child’s future. The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism published an article earlier this year on 13 next steps for parents after and autism diagnosis. They are:

  1. Give yourself time to adjust.
  2. Give the people around you time to adjust, and keep them in the loop.
  3. Give yourself time to process information critically.
  4. Give yourself time to learn which organizations and people to trust.
  5. Give yourself time to figure out what autism means for your child.
  6. Give yourself time to figure out what communication looks like for your child.
  7. Give yourself time to figure out which supports, schools, therapies, and environments will help your child succeed.
  8. Give yourself the space to be flexible about needs, and pick your battles.
  9. Give yourself time to find autistic role models for your child.
  10. Give yourself time to think about shared traits.
  11. Give your child space to grow and change.
  12. Give yourself time to figure out what your child really enjoys.
  13. Give yourself time to plan for your child’s future without you.

An autism diagnosis can be a relief that the challenges you and your child have been facing have an explanation. It can also bring worry and concern for your child’s future. Be sure to read the full article for details and resources linked to each of the above points. There is a growing community of autistic teenagers and adults online sharing their experiences and speaking up for others on the spectrum that can also help a family understand what an autism diagnosis means (see the #ActuallyAutistic hashtag on Twitter).

Youth Concussions: What Parents Need to Know

In 2014, Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill into law to provide new protections for high school athletes regarding concussions. A recent NPR Illinois story indicates that while reporting of student concussions has increased in recent years, not every Illinois high school has the resources to fully implement the law.

What is a Concussion?

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth. This fast movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching and damaging the brain cells. This short video explains concussions and how to treat them.

Recognizing a Concussion

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that parents may observe the following signs in their children that can indicate a concussion:

  • Appears dazed or stunned.
  • Forgets an instruction, is confused about an assignment or position, or is unsure of the game, score, or opponent.
  • Moves clumsily.
  • Answers questions slowly.
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly).
  • Shows mood, behavior, or personality changes.
  • Can’t recall events prior to or after a hit or fall.

In addition, the CDC says that children and teens who have suffered a concussion may report the following symptoms:

  • Headache or “pressure” in head.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Balance problems or dizziness, or double or blurry vision.
  • Bothered by light or noise.
  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy.
  • Confusion, or concentration or memory problems.
  • Just not “feeling right,” or “feeling down.”

If you suspect your child has suffered a concussion, take them to a doctor for evaluation. Note that a concussion can occur from any blow to the head, not just those from youth sports, so be aware of the possibility of a concussion occurring even on the playground or at home.

Resources on Concussions

The CDC has numerous resources on concussions for parents, including:

Photo © 2006 by Jamie Williams under Creative Commons license.

October is National Dental Hygiene Month

Did you know tooth decay (cavities) is one of the most common chronic conditions of childhood in the United States? Untreated tooth decay can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning.

  • About 1 of 5 (20%) children aged 5 to 11 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth.
  • 1 of 7 (13%) adolescents aged 12 to 19 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth.
  • The percentage of children and adolescents aged 5 to 19 years with untreated tooth decay is twice as high for those from low-income families (25%) compared with children from higher-income households (11%).

The good news is that tooth decay is preventable. Fluoride varnish, a high-concentration fluoride coating that is painted on teeth, can prevent about one-third (33%) of decay in the primary (baby) teeth. Children living in communities with fluoridated tap water have fewer decayed teeth than children who live in areas where their tap water is not fluoridated. Similarly, children who brush daily with fluoride toothpaste will have less tooth decay.

Promote dental hygiene and National Dental Hygiene Month by inviting a local dentist to speak at an upcoming meeting or work with school administrators on a school wide rally. Find more oral health information at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

September 20 is National School Backpack Awareness Day

Backpacks that are too heavy or worn incorrectly can cause problems for children and teenagers. Improperly used backpacks may injure muscles and joints which can lead to more severe back, neck and shoulder pain as well as posture problems. However, when used correctly they are a good way to carry the necessities of the school day. They are designed to distribute the weight of the load among some of the body’s strongest muscles.

When selecting a backpack, a few items to look for:

  • The correct size for your child. It shouldn’t be wider or longer than your child’s torso or hang more than 4 inches below your child’s waist.
  • Wide padded shoulder straps to prevent from digging into shoulders.
  • Two shoulder straps and multiple compartments help distribute the weight equivalently.
  • A lightweight backpack is best so there isn’t additional weight from the backpack itself. Recommended guideline is the backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 10% of the child’s weight.

To help prevent injury encourage your child to use both straps, tighten the straps so it is close to their body, use both knees when bending, and only carry necessary items at one time. Remember, the more space there is to fill, the more likely your child will fill it.