Children with autism open our eyes and our hearts to growth, beauty and love in unexpected, marvelous and deep ways that expand our humanity. But, an autism diagnosis is a moment that stays with a parent.
Some parents might have trouble understanding what’s happening. Others may worry or have a sense of relief that there’s a name for what they’ve noticed in their child. Regardless of your emotions, there’s not a right or wrong way to feel.
Here are seven areas to cover after receiving an autism diagnosis:
1. Line up great medical care.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids with autism often have other associated medical issues such as gastrointestinal issues, language delay or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Depending on where you live, your medical choices might be sparse or specialist-rich. Getting good, consistent healthcare is invaluable and establishes important baselines, routines and trust. How do you know which specialists or family doctors have the skills you and your child need? Ask those who have gone before you.
Medicaid provides services for children on the spectrum but there are simply not enough providers who accept Medicaid. Waiting lists in some states can be as long as 15 years. If Medicaid is part of your family’s life, get your child on the waiting list as soon as possible. While you wait, look into attorneys and advocates for additional support. A good advocate will ensure you have a primary role in your child’s education, regardless of the insurance plan you may or may not have.
If you don’t qualify for Medicaid, the ACA marketplace (also known as the exchange) offers affordable coverage for those who qualify. If your family has private health insurance, call to see what your benefits are so you’re prepared.
2. Understand your insurance coverage.
3. Find a community.
4. Start support.
5. Find a good support system if you need a break.
Make sure you have loving and qualified family, friends, or professional childcare providers who can stay with your child so you can have an established date night or occasional weekend away. Such activities are important for all parents of young children but they can be especially critical for parents with children on the spectrum. Finding people who understand your child’s needs, routines and sensitivities is vital to offering you an evening out while keeping things balanced on the home front. The important thing to remember is having an autisic child is beautiful and it’s okay to reach out for help if you need it.
6. Contact your local school district.
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) school districts, often in coordination with the public health office, are responsible for providing services from birth. Part C of IDEA mandates that schools conduct “Child Find” to locate children who need help. Among other things, Part C services can provide speech, occupational, physical and behavioral therapies to your child, often delivered in your home, and at no expense. It is part of the commitment of special education to assist families in having their children ready to learn by the time they start school. For help, call your local school district and request a meeting to begin the journey of getting the assistance your little one needs.
7. Establish a financial plan.
Many children with autism will grow into healthy self-sufficient adults, but some may require varying levels of support. That is why having a financial and assistance plan that looks after their long-term needs is essential. It’s tough, but having important conversations with your partner and members of your family will help your little one in the long run. If you need advice, look into Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) to assist with creating a tax-advantaged savings account to pay for qualified expenses.
The bottom line is simple: This is hard and there will be challenges, but you’ve got this, mama. There will also be more beauty in this journey than you can ever imagine. The main thing to remember is that your child has you as their mother, which means they’re already doing great.
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On average, nannies in the United States make less than Amazon delivery drivers, and day care workers earn less than either.
According to Sittercity’s most recent data, the typical hourly rate of nannies in 2019 is $17.50 per hour. According to Amazon, most delivery drivers earn $18 – $25 per hour. And day care workers make only a couple dollars more than they would working in fast food, earning $11.17 per hour on average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What does it say about our society that we value the delivery of consumer goods more than we value care work?
Yes, parents are struggling to pay for childcare, but those caring for our children are struggling to pay their bills, too, and it is hard to retain talented professionals when there is more money to be made in other fields. “It is stressful. Everybody loves these children, and that’s why they’re there, but the love can’t pay their bills,” day care operator Danielle Frank told KSNB News this week.
Frank owns Smiling Faces Academy in Kearney, Nebraska, but the problem of high turnover and low wages in the childcare industry is an issue all over the United States. This isn’t a uniquely American issue, either. In Japan, day care workers are desperately needed, the New York Times reports, but childcare workers there earn about a third less than workers in other industries and report struggling to cover the basic necessities.
Back in North America, this week day care workers in Nova Scotia, Canada who are frustrated with low wages have threatened to walk off the job, a move similar to one made by YMCA childcare workers in Chicago last year. “I make $15.50 an hour, and I have a BA in early childhood education with a certification in infants and toddlers,” childcare worker Tahiti Hamer told WGN last year.
From Nebraska to Nova Scotia to the story is the same: Parents pay a lot for childcare while workers make very little, even though some licensed day cares require employees to have training in early childhood education, or even a bachelor’s degree. And when you’ve got student loans, maybe carrying Amazon packages starts to look better than caring for children.
According to a recent study by the Indeed Hiring Lab, the childcare industry has two big problems right now.
“As the labor market has strengthened in recent years, more workers need child care. At the same time, growth in interest in child care jobs has slowed,” Indeed Hiring Lab economist Nick Bunker notes. He suggests low-wage earners who work in childcare have more options these days, and employers should consider raising workers’ pay.
It’s easy to see why the industry has a hard time keeping workers, especially as other lower-wage job sectors (like Amazon delivery) expand. Unfortunately, for many childcare centers, paying workers more is just not doable without some help from levels of government.
And help is needed, not just to ensure that parents have access to quality, affordable childcare, but also to ensure that those providing it aren’t living in poverty.
A study out of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley, found childcare workers’ earnings are not keeping pace with increases in similar professions or with the costs of childcare and living. “Childcare workers have also experienced no increase in real earnings since 1997, and, as was true in 1989, still earn less than adults who take care of animals, and barely more than fast food cooks. Those who work as preschool teachers have fared somewhat better; their wages have increased by 15 percent in constant dollars since 1997, although their wages remain low. In contrast, parent fees have effectively doubled,” the researchers note, highlighting that many childcare workers earn so little they actually qualify for public assistance.
The researchers continue: “While there are no available data to explain this glaring gap between trends in parent fees and teacher wages, it is abundantly clear that families cannot bear the burden of addressing the imperative to provide more equitable compensation for their children’s early childhood teachers.”
Speaking to the Education Writers Association last year one of the reports’ writers, Marcy Whitebook, the founding director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California at Berkeley, said the problem is that our society devalues the work of looking after and educating children under 5, even though it is as demanding and important as teaching those ages 5 and up.
“Americans aren’t used to funding early childhood care and instruction like they do K-12 education,” Whitebook said. “We don’t look at it as education. And we don’t look at it as education everyone should have access to.”
That may change in the future, as presidential candidates float plans for universal pre-K and childcare, but right now, having access to childcare is a privilege. And those who are privileged enough to employ a nanny should pay them fairly if they want to keep them, says Elizabeth Harz, CEO of Sittercity. “It’s also worth noting that when parents are proactive and offer systems and official paperwork that give nannies protection in the relationship, it goes a long way,” says Harz.
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It takes some prep work to do it right.