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).

NASA’s Kids’ Club

STEM education—focusing on science, technology, engineering, and math—has received a lot of attention in recent years. Part of the reason for that is STEM jobs are experiencing significant growth and are expected to continue to do so, but the number of STEM workers our education system is producing is not keeping up with that growth, especially among women and minorities.

To help get young students excited about STEM fields, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had created NASA Kids’ Club, a collection on online games and activities that provide a safe place for children to play and explore as they learn about NASA and its missions.

NASA and the exploration of space are naturals for engaging children in STEM. Indeed, many current scientists and engineers attribute their interest in their fields to the inspiration provided by the Apollo moon missions.

The games and activities included at NASA’s Kids’ Club align with the Illinois Learning Standards for Science, which are based on the Next Generation Science Standards. The parent information page for NASA’s Kids’ Club shares which activities align with which grades and standards. And while the activities align with Kindergarten through fourth grade standards, any pre-K or elementary aged student can enjoy the activities.

Helping Your Child with Math Homework

Math homework has been a challenge for families at least since the “New Math” curriculum was introduced in the 1970s. With math standards and curriculum changing in recent years, many parents are discovering that how they learned to do math is no longer how it is being taught. That frustration helped one Ohio father’s Facebook post go viral.

Recently, Chicago Parent shared three key pieces of advice to help parents help their child with math homework. These are:

  • Stop Teaching the Tricks: Teaching math has changed from following rules and algorithms to building an understanding mathematical concepts and reasoning. Teaching the “trick” that you were taught can undermine building that math foundation. Instead, have your child teach you how they were taught to solve the problem.
  • Stop Worrying About It Being Correct: Math homework is no longer just about applying the rules that were taught that day in class to several additional problems to learn the process by rote repetition. Homework now helps teachers understand what their students know and where they are struggling. Shift the homework focus from getting the right answer to working hard to solve problems. Mistakes and failures are an important part of building a growth mindset.
  • Stop the Negative Math Talk: Children look up to parents for a lot longer than their parents think they do. When you talk about being bad at math, your goal may be to create sympathy with your child and their struggles with math, but the message is that not everyone can do math, and that can make math an even bigger challenge for them in the future. Focus instead on how math, like anything that you are just starting out to learn, can be difficult, but that the harder and longer they work at math, the better and easier it will become.

Check out the full article for more information on helping your child with their math homework in a productive manner. Illinois PTA also has several additional articles on families and math here on One Voice Illinois:

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.