The Calculations Families Must Make
It can take a team of family members and autism services experts to raise a child with autism because it's essential not just to get therapies, but to coordinate the various activities so they complement each other. And it's vital to evaluate a child's progress along the way, adjusting treatment plans as needed.
Services vary widely across the country, but the basics are these: state-based, federally-funded Early Intervention Programs provide mostly-free services to help children under three. When a child turns three, federal law calls for the local school district where a family lives to provide evaluations and services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Beyond these basics, the reality is that many families supplement what a state or school offers with privately arranged services.
Experience has shown that children who receive an autism diagnosis can make positive gains through intensive early intervention services. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) calls for 25 hours per week of such services when a doctor suspects a toddler could have autism.
Because the prevalence of reported autism cases has risen to one in every 150 children in the United States, and because of rising levels of media coverage, there's a lot of activity in the autism services arena. Parents new to the issues involved will find a great deal of information thrust at them, including promises of cures and testimonials by celebrities who suggest doing what they did will yield dramatic results in a relatively short time. Some alternative treatments are controversial because while scientific studies don't support their use, parents say their children do benefit from them.