What is autism?
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects each patient to a differing degree. The autism support community openly embraces a term called “neurodiversity” in order to celebrate the many ways that individuals learn, communicate, interact and behave.
Autism holds many stigmas, namely, that individuals with autism have intellectual delays or are unable to maintain social relationships. In reality, these stereotypes are harmful for many reasons.
- Autism Spectrum Disorder can be diagnosed by a licensed provider as “with intellectual impairment” or as “without accompanying intellectual impairment”
- Read: not every individual with autism has an intellectual impairment, but some do.
- Engaging with therapeutic services from a young age will help an individual with autism develop ways of adapting to their environment. It will also help them to advocate for their neurodiversity as they become adults.
- Read: we need neurodiversity in our communities and workforces. Sometimes the only way is not the best way.
There are 5 diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Briefly, the areas examined for diagnostic purposes are:
- Social communication and social interaction
- Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities
- Symptoms must be present during the early developmental period (birth to 3 years)
- The individual experiences significant impairment in social or occupational areas of functioning
- The provider has decided that the symptoms are not better explained by intellectual disability or global developmental delay.
Now that we understand the categories (diagnostic criteria) that a licensed provider follows when making a diagnosis, we can discuss the symptoms present that the provider would use to justify their diagnosis.
Symptoms and Referrals
In no way could we include all of the symptoms of autism that an individual may experience. The good news is that we don’t have to! The CDC has created a list of developmental milestones by age so that you can track your child’s progress. Use the CDC’s Early Childhood Development Milestones to track if your child is meeting childhood developmental goals.
Please keep in mind that every child is different. Missing one or two “normal” milestones is not always an indication of a neurodevelopmental disorder. However, continuing to miss milestones over time could be a sign that your child should see a pediatrician.
Use the CDC checklist as a way to start dialogue about your concerns with your child’s pediatrician. Your pediatrician should refer the child to a specialist such as a developmental pediatrician, child neurologist or child psychiatrist or psychologist.
Advocacy for Autism and Gateways to Services
You do not have to wait for a diagnosis of autism (or any other neurodevelopmental disorder) to get your child the help he or she needs. You may receive a free assessment and referrals to support services through many different avenues, which are listed below.
-Babies Can’t Wait: Babies Can’t Wait covers every county in Georgia as a service of your local Health Department. Babies Can’t Wait provides children with special needs aged birth to age 3 and their families with access to assessments and screenings.
-County School District: If you have spoken with your licensed provider and it is determined your child needs additional help in reaching developmental milestones, you may call your local school district for help and support. Ask to speak with the director of special education. They will help you schedule an evaluation for preschool special education services.
Support resources for parents
Parent to Parent of Georgia (p2P): P2P provides parent support groups, online resource support, trainings to parents and community members and resource connection.
Focus+Fragile Kids: parent support groups, hospital visits, mom’s day out, workshops, annual conference, newsletters, summer camps, grant up to $10,000 for medical equipment not covered by insurance.
Phone: (770) 234-9111
Georgia Autism Initiative: Georgia Autism Initiative is the statewide coordination and delivery of services that improve capacity for early intervention, family coaching and support, transition planning, and provider training for infants and youth with ASD from birth to 21 years of age and their families.
Katie Beckett Waiver: Certain children with disabilities are Medicaid eligible despite their family income. The child must be 18 years of age and qualify as a disabled individuals under §1614 of the Social Security Act. They must live at home rather than in an institution. Qualification is not based on medical diagnosis; instead it is based on the institutional level of care the child requires.
Medicaid applications may be obtained by contacting the Centralized Katie Beckett Medicaid Team at 678-248-7449 or from the county Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) office in the child’s county of residence.
Call the Katie Beckett Medicaid Team: 678-248-7449
Champions for Children: assists families of children who have received a level of care denial from the Katie Beckett waiver. The child must be up to the age of 18 and live at home. The child must have a physical, cognitive, developmental or medical disability.
Babies Can’t Wait covers every county in Georgia as a service of your local Health Department. Babies Can’t Wait provides children with special needs aged birth to age 3 and their families with access to assessments and screenings.
Phone: (478) 745-9200