BIG A, little a, What Begins with A*? {Autism Awareness}

It almost always reduces a mom to tears, even when she thought she knew it was coming. The answer was there all along, yet for many reasons, it hadn’t been official until now. Her child has autism. The Big A. She had always talked herself out of it, thinking, “But he doesn’t flap his hands or spin in circles. He’s so smart. It can’t be autism. I knew a kid with autism, and my child is nothing like that.”

There’s a favorite saying among folks in the autism community :: “Once you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met ONE CHILD WITH AUTISM.” Autism is different for every child.

Autism - CLCC (1)

And then something else happens – a glimmer of hope appears on her face as she listens to all of the options for strategies and interventions that will help things improve at home, at school, and in the community. As a Licensed Psychologist, I’ve seen some pretty amazing progress in kiddos who get the appropriate diagnosis and services. Preschoolers with severe tantrums and limited communication skills become productive little members of their classrooms. Adolescents with significant social deficits begin to form real relationships with peers. Students who had debilitating sensory issues are able to cope with their irritations without having to leave the room. I could go on.

Did you know the prevalence rate for autism now stands at 1 in 68 children? It’s no longer a low-incidence disability. Look around. The chances are that you are directly affected by autism in some way, whether it’s in your own family, your extended family, your neighbor, someone in your child’s classroom, a soccer teammate, a fellow scout, or the person in front of you in the grocery store line. So the next time you see a mom struggling with her child, pause and offer compassion, not judgment. She, herself, may be trying to cope with The Big A.

Girl with puzzle pieces

There are so many wonderful organizations in and around the Houston area providing services to children, parents, and educators affected by autism. The support network around here is amazing! As the owner of Clear Lake Children’s Center, I’m proud to be one of them and honored to spread awareness of all things autism. In fact, the month of April is Autism Awareness Month, and today is World Autism Awareness Day and Light It Up Blue Day. Show your support by wearing blue, changing your light bulbs to blue, and checking Pinterest for the latest in autism fashion nail design! In the fall, join us in supporting Autism Speaks at the annual Houston Walk for Autism at Reliant Park. For those of you on the south side, stop by our table at the 2nd annual Autism Conference organized by Alvin ISD and Pearland ISD on Saturday, April 12th. {This one’s FREE and open to the public!} There are a few local parent groups around town always looking for new members too.

And moms – trust your gut. If something is off, if you’ve always detected something was different with your child, chances are, you’re on to something. There are so many people out there {my team and I included} who will be your biggest supporters and go out of our way to make sure you are prepared for the next step. Yes, it can feel scary and overwhelming at first, but wouldn’t you sleep better knowing you did everything you could for your child?

There’s no question that early intervention is the key to success with autism.

Typically, it all begins with an autism screening or a full diagnostic evaluation to give you a clear picture of your child’s strengths and weaknesses and to formulate a plan for moving forward. If you’re struggling with behavior issues in the home and community, in-home parent training and behavior support may be perfect for you.  That consists of a visit to your home, help with how to implement specific strategies, and possibly even some individualized visual supports {schedules, checklists, communication aides, etc.} just for you and your family. For higher functioning kiddos, one-on-one sessions to teach and practice coping skills, social skills, impulse control, and emotional/behavioral regulation strategies are really helpful.  And there are so many resources for you as the parent too :: navigating the world of special education and 504 supports, preparing for the ARD meeting, and advocating for the right services for your child.

Autism - CLCC (3)

If you are a parent to a child with autism, I’d love to connect with you!  Please visit Clear Lake Children’s Center online and sign up for our newsletter, check out our Pinterest page {for tons of great ideas for social skills, behavior strategies, visual supports, sensory-based activities, books, websites, apps, and more}, and follow us on Facebook for loads of updates and local opportunities too.  And please always know, there are so many people like me out here to help!

{*autism = Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD, PDD-NOS, Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, Asperger’s Disorder. We call it ASD now, but let’s not get sidetracked by the semantics.}

In honor of World Autism Awareness Day, we are spreading the word about ASD and how it affects the families in our very own community.  Becky’s post is just one of many that we will be sharing, and we hope you will join us as real local moms open up and tell their stories all throughout the day.  To read more, please click here.

[hr] Becky S - HeadshotAbout Becky S.

Dr. Becky Siekierski is a Licensed Psychologist with extensive training and experience in the evaluation and treatment of children and adolescents. She earned her doctorate from Texas A&M University in College Station and has over 12 years of experience working in public schools, with additional training experiences in community mental health clinics and hospital settings. Dr. Siekierski specializes in autism spectrum disorder assessment and intervention, differential diagnosis of ADD/ADHD and emotional/behavioral disorders, and assessment of early childhood disorders.

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