Autism is a major concern for parents today. Roughly one out of every 68 children – and more specifically, one out of every 42 boys – has autism, and the prevalence has grown dramatically in the last decade. Despite being one of the fastest growing developmental disorders in the U.S., parents still can have a hard time finding the care their family needs.
Not surprisingly, identifying the right primary care provider is critical for families facing the possibility of an autism diagnosis. Despite extensive research stressing the importance of early intervention, studies show that less than half of the children identified with autism received comprehensive developmental evaluations by age three – even when the vast majority had red flags in their records.
Parenting young children is not easy, especially when there are underlying concerns that need expert attention. Below are four ways your provider can make a difference in the unique care of your child.
Diligent screening. Your child should undergo assessments at every well-child visit from infancy through school age – and longer if you have concerns about social acceptance, learning or behavior. Talk with your provider about milestones and behaviors they are tracking, and share your experiences at home. If there are any red flags, get a comprehensive diagnostic analysis. Early intervention is critical in their lifelong prognosis.
Individualized care that embraces a team approach. Autism is a complicated diagnosis. While there is no cure, there is a vast universe of treatment options and support to help families navigate the many facets of autism. Choose a primary care provider that is not only laser-focused on your child, but comfortable leading a team of professionals with varying expertise, including neurologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, along with behavior, speech and occupational therapists. When it comes to managing autism, a team approach is a must.
Help managing the many side effects. Every autistic child has different challenges, and most will experience side effects that compound the effects of autism. Four out of five children have trouble sleeping, 70 percent have GI issues, and roughly 30 percent have an anxiety disorder, and these are just a few of the complications. Successful autism treatment requires managing the intricate web of side effects, so find a provider willing to address every concern affecting your child’s health.
An unwavering commitment to wellness. When much of the focus in caring for children with autism centers on symptoms and treatments, it can be easy to underemphasize general wellness, including nutrition, exercise and stress management. Autism can be all-encompassing, but the importance of establishing good healthy habits at a young age will help your child navigate their well-being through adulthood.
If you have concerns about your child’s development or suspect they may be on the autism spectrum, finding the right provider to help diagnose the problem early and deliver the right treatment is crucial. Increasingly, parents are turning to providers like nurse practitioners who embrace a more holistic approach to care and who spend more time getting to know patients and their families to devise customized treatment plans. Regardless of who you choose, selecting the right provider for your family is arguably the most important thing you can do to help your little one thrive.