When you have been told that my child has autism, you may be left wondering what happens next. You may not know very much at all about what autism means, and you may be looking around for support to help you and the rest of your family to come to terms with what this means. All too often parents are not given much direction as to what happens next, but there are things that you can do and places that you can get support from. For example, here at App2Vox we work closely with Autism Together who offer a wide range of support services for both the individual and their family. In this article we will look at some of the things that you may want to consider when your child has been diagnosed with autism. Support for your Child Wherever your child has been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum it is important to remember one thing. They are still the same child they have always been. Having a diagnosis just means that now you have some of the information you need to be able to understand what they need, find the best support for them, and help them to maximise their potential. Support for autistic children and their families is really important to get in place as early as possible, as it bring benefits to both. The support your child will receive at school will depend on the school, the diagnosis of your child and what they need – so it is something that you will need to discuss with the school as soon as possible after the diagnosis. As the parent of a child who has been diagnosed with autism you may be eligible for support from your local authority, and so you should contact them as well to ask them for not only an assessment of your child’s needs but also assessment of you as a carer. You may then be offered support such as short respite breaks and so on. You may also find that you are eligible for allowances such as Carers Allowance and Disability Allowance. Autism Together have a specific branch that deals with support in the home and it is called Autism Together Children & Family Service. They offer things such as parent workshops and rainbow stay and play which can help family members to gain a better understanding of autism, build their communication skills and also help them to have a better understanding of their child’s behaviour. If your child has been diagnosed with non-verbal autism you may also want to look into communication apps for nonverbal people, such as App2Vox. Sibling Support Sometimes siblings of autistic children can feel that they are being forgotten about as a lot of care and attention is now being focused on the newly diagnosed child, and so you should always remember to keep them in mind as well. You could spend some time talking to them and helping them to understand their sibling and what they need better, do separate activities with them so they feel like they are getting some attention as well, allow them to have some time to themselves away from the autistic child ( such as a sleepover at a friends house), allow them to enjoy themselves with friends at your house without any interruption, and most importantly of all , listen, Listen to what they have to say about the things that are important to them, what they are worried about, and their ideas of how to manage things – sometimes they will come up with ideas of how to deal with your autistic child that you have not considered. Parental Support You are not going to become an expert on autism and your autistic child overnight. It will take time and effort, and it may be frustrating along the way. It can be hard to stay positive all the time and it is natural that you will feel down sometimes. That is why it is important to take some time for yourself when you can, and not feel guilty about it. If you run yourself into the ground, you are not doing anyone any favours. As we have said above, you may be entitled to short respite breaks through your local authority or you can turn to an autism support company such as Autism Together. How to talk about a Diagnosis There is no right or wrong way when it comes to discussing your child’s diagnosis with them – and some parents don’t do it at all. It all depends on the age of your child and their understanding of the topic, and it is your decision as parents. You may want to tell them about it straight away as they have already voiced concerns that they are ‘different’ to other people, or you may want to wait until they are older and they are able to understand the diagnosis more fully. You can also talk to your doctor or support worker about the diagnosis as well, and ask them to help you to explain it to your child if you wish. If you do decide to tell your child about their diagnosis, then there are some points you need to consider. Think about who might be the best person to tell them, who are they most calm around? Of course, you are going to want to be the main person, but it may help to have a sibling or other family relative there as well. You should also consider where you are going to tell the, choose a familiar place where they feel calm and comfortable. Many autistic children can find it hard to process information and this can be worsened by the fact that they are in an unfamiliar place and are feeling anxious. You should also try and make as sure as you can that you won’t be interrupted as your child will probably want to talk things though and ask lots of questions, and they should be given every opportunity to do that. It can also be helpful to think about how your child may react to being diagnosed as autistic. It could be that they are pleased to finally have a better understanding of themselves, or they may be confused or frightened as to how this diagnosis will affect them. Your child may not find it easy to ask questions at that time, so perhaps you could think about having some kind of message system or question box that they can pop things into when they think of them. The flip side of this is that it also gives you more time to think about how to answer their questions as well. These are just some of the things you may need to think about after your child is diagnosed with autism, but don’t worry there are lots of people out there who are ready and willing to support you. Here at App2Vox we have worked hard to produce one of the leading speech therapy apps, in association with Autism Together, as we truly believe that every autistic person has the right to be able to communicate.