10 Things You Need to Know if Your Child Is Diagnosed with Autism

Leading autism expert Dr. Catherine Lord offers advice for families of autistic children

NEW YORK (March 26, 2014) — In recognition of Autism Awareness Month, Dr. Catherine Lord, director of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and a national authority on autism spectrum disorders (ASD), offers families guidance and tips for coping with a child’s diagnosis.

  • Have hope. Every day we learn more about how to help people with ASD.
  • Remember that your child is an individual. Your child is first and foremost his or her own unique person, then a child, then a child with strengths and difficulties, and only then a child with ASD.
  • Build a strong support system. Find people you can trust to support you as an individual, and then to support you as a parent of a child with autism.
  • Find credible sources. You will hear many contradictory and unfounded pieces of information. Find professionals and resources in which you have faith.
  • Enjoy each other. Do things every day that you and your child can enjoy together. While opportunities for learning are important, shared enjoyment is even more important in a family.
  • Set goals. Try to concentrate on setting small, reasonable goals for your child and figuring out how to accomplish those goals. These goals should be something that you can see happening as a next step, not miles down the road.
  • Make time for your partner. Set aside some time, even just a few minutes, to focus on each other and not the child. Listen to each other's needs and perspectives as you consider what you will do for your child.
  • Be involved. Children with ASD who have families that devote time to learning and playing with them show more improvement than families who are less involved.
  • Have reasonable expectations for your child's behavior. Do not let your child do things that you would not let another child of the same age do, such as biting people or climbing on counters. Do not punish, but respond quickly and offer a distraction if things are not going well.
  • Find the resources in your community. Other parents can be important sources of information, but every child with ASD is different. Stand up for what you think are the needs of your child.

About Dr. Catherine Lord

Dr. Catherine Lord is the director of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, a joint center with Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University Medical Center. She is a clinical psychologist who co-developed some of the key diagnostic tools to help clinicians recognize autism in individuals of varying ages. Dr. Lord is renowned for her research in the field, especially longitudinal studies of children with autism that observe the progression of their social development and communication skills. The focus of her research is often to find more effective ways to treat patients.

Dr. Lord has been honored repeatedly for her work and has received the American Psychological Association award for Lifetime Achievement in Applications of Research, the Patricia Buehler Legacy Award for Clinical Innovation from the American College of Occupational Therapy; the Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Clinical Psychology from the Society of Clinical Psychology; and the Asperger/ Kanner Medal from the Free University of Berlin. She chaired the Committee on Effectiveness of Early Intervention in Autism for the National Research Council and was on the DSM-5 Neurodevelopmental Disorders Committee.

Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

The Center for Autism and the Developing Brain is a comprehensive, state-of-the-art institute dedicated to addressing the pressing clinical needs of individuals living with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disorders of the brain, across their lifespan. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, along with its affiliated medical schools, Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, has collaborated with New York Collaborates for Autism (www.nyc4a.org) to establish the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain. Led by Dr. Catherine Lord and located on the Hospital's 214-acre campus in White Plains, the center is a resource for community-based providers and families that opened in 2013. For more information, visit http://nyp.org/services/center-autism-developing-brain.html.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, based in New York City, is one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive hospitals, with some 2,600 beds. In 2012, the Hospital had nearly 2 million inpatient and outpatient visits, including 12,758 deliveries and 275,592 visits to its emergency departments. NewYork-Presbyterian’s 6,144 affiliated physicians and 20,154 staff provide state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine at six major centers: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division and NewYork-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital. One of the most comprehensive health care institutions in the world, the Hospital is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education and community service. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. The Hospital has academic affiliations with two of the nation’s leading medical colleges: Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. For more information, visit www.nyp.org.

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Department of Public Affairs tel: 212.821.0560 tel: 212.305.5587 email: pr@nyp.org

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This article first appeared on NewYork-Presbyterian's website.