A Roadmap for Your Child

Participate in research buttonWhile every child, adolescent and adult with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is different, this roadmap may help provide some general insight of what you can expect at different stages — and how to prepare for what’s next.

Birth to age 3

  • Learn as much as possible about ASD and the resources available to your child and your family
  • Connect with other families affected by ASD through support groups, online forums and so on
  • Contact Autism Speaks and request their free toolkit: The First 100 Days
  • Create a system to organize medical and service provider information
  • Set up well-child visits as recommended by your child’s pediatrician
  • Explore special needs childcare options
  • Contact the state’s early intervention program and schedule an evaluation
  • Schedule an annual reevaluation to review your child’s progress and reevaluate the early intervention plan
  • Work with your child’s care providers and therapists to set goals for your child
  • Learn about parent-led interventions you can do with our child at home
  • Expect and prepare for challenges with your child’s sleep, eating habits, potty training and common safety (e.g., running across the street, touching hot stoves)

Transition planning

As your child nears age 3, it is important to be prepared to face the next stage of his or her development.

  • Prepare to transition from early intervention to the school district at age 3
  • Research appropriate schools and school environments for your child
  • Schedule a transition meeting with your early intervention providers to determine a transition plan
  • Schedule a meeting with your school district to begin evaluations and develop an individual education plan (IEP) for your child
  • Begin screening and visiting preschools to find the best place for your child to begin his or her school experience
  • Schedule an evaluation with your school district to determine if your child qualifies for preschool special education services
  • Seek out private therapy, if needed, to supplement school district services

Autism Resource Directory

We can help you find the services and resources you need. The Autism Resource Directory is a comprehensive online directory that links you to service providers, support groups, community resources and government programs across the nine-county Chicago metropolitan area — Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will.

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Preschool

  • At age 3, early intervention programs end and your school district takes over
  • Work with your school district and early intervention therapists to develop an IEP that addresses your child’s distinct needs
  • Seek out private therapy resources to help your child continue to grow emotionally, socially and physically • Consider a social skills groups to help your child begin to build social skills among peers
  • Join a parent support group to help you gain the strength and knowledge you need to be a strong advocate for your child
  • Find sibling support groups for your other children to help them learn how to deal with the emotional and social challenges that often come along with having a sibling with ASD
  • Continue to monitor your child’s developmental, physical and mental health with a regular check-up schedule with your child’s developmental pediatrician, therapists and other health professionals
  • Continue in-home behavior interventions, if needed
  • Begin setting limits on screen time (e.g., computers, tablets, television); setting limits early on may help you avoid battles when your child is older
  • Begin helping your child understand “stranger danger” and determining who is a friend and who is a stranger
  • You may continue to expect challenges with sleep, eating habits and safety

Transition planning

As your child approaches the end of the preschool years, it’s time to begin thinking about your child’s transition into kindergarten and perhaps a mainstream school.

  • Contact your school district to discuss kindergarten placement and how your district will work with you and your child to ensure an appropriate educational environment for your child
  • Start working with your child to further grow your child’s independent living skills (e.g., bathing, toileting, basic hygiene, dressing, cleaning up basic messes)
  • Focus on helping your child become more tolerant of routines

Autism Resource Directory

We can help you find the services and resources you need. The Autism Resource Directory is a comprehensive online directory that links you to service providers, support groups, community resources and government programs across the nine-county Chicago metropolitan area — Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will.

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Grade school

  • Work with your school district and your child’s therapists to ensure that your child’s IEP goals are appropriate and attainable.
  • Establish positive homework routines; starting these routines early in grade school may help you avoid more difficult homework battles as homework ramps up later in grade school and into middle school.
  • Establish healthy eating habits and sleep routines.
  • Work with your child’s education providers to help your child begin to focus on meaningful learning (e.g., not just being able to read words, but also comprehend words)
  • Your child will likely need additional support in learning and understanding why things happen
  • Sign your child up for social skills groups, as this is a time where social skills play a major role in children’s lives; it is important for your child to be around typical peers
  • Work with your child’s care providers to help him or her understand and follow instructions and
  • Continue to set limits on electronics, while also clearly helping your child understand safety with electronics; turn on parental controls and monitor your child’s electronic activity
  • Help your child understand “stranger danger.”

Transition planning

  • As your child nears the end of the grade school years, he or she will be on the brink of puberty, which brings in a host of additional hurdles and challenge.
  • Begin helping your child understand the body changes that will begin
  • Focus on good hygiene and independent living skills
  • Work on building a positive relationship with teachers and the school administrators; help your child clearly understand that teachers are their allies not their foes.
  • Give your child a good idea of what to expect in middle school to help make the transition less complex and more manageable.
  • Focus on bullying awareness — both being bullied and being a bully

Autism Resource Directory

We can help you find the services and resources you need. The Autism Resource Directory is a comprehensive online directory that links you to service providers, support groups, community resources and government programs across the nine-county Chicago metropolitan area — Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will.

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Middle school

  • Middle school is a time where many children with ASD need to learn how to be more independent, while also facing a more complex school setting
  • Establish any necessary instructional assistance (e.g., tutoring, environmental adjustments)
  • Help your child with therapies that focus on helping your child with organization skills and executive function training
  • Middle school can be a difficult time socially for children with ASD; focus on finding social skills groups
  • Make sure there are social supports with peers, not aides, in place for your child during unstructured school times (e.g., lunch bunches, recess buddies)
  • Help your child receive positive sex and sexuality education that focuses on both safety and actual education; seek out sex education groups geared specifically to children with ASD
  • Help your child with puberty education and body changes that will occur during this period of his or her life
  • Continue to work with your child on maintaining good hygiene and independent living skills

Transition planning

As your child nears the end of middle school, it is important to start preparing him or her for high school and the independence needed during this stage of life.

  • There should be a focus on more advanced independent living skills at this age, such as cooking meals, laundry and cleaning
  • Begin helping your child understand different types of interpersonal relationships (e.g., boyfriends and girlfriends)

Autism Resource Directory

We can help you find the services and resources you need. The Autism Resource Directory is a comprehensive online directory that links you to service providers, support groups, community resources and government programs across the nine-county Chicago metropolitan area — Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will.

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High school

  • Seek out education advocates who can help your child continue with his or her education and growth
  • Help your child learn and explore self-advocacy skills
  • Consider therapies that focus on both friendships and romantic relationship development
  • Continue providing positive sex education
  • This is typically the stage in your child’s life where you, the parent and/or caregiver, will need to learn to step back and let go a bit. Your child — like all teenagers — needs to face challenges in order to learn and, ultimately, thrive

Transition planning

As your child nears the end of high school, it is important to remember that there are supports that can help your child can continue with his or her education and live a fulfilling, productive adult life.

  • Work with education advocates to determine college success opportunities
  • Seek out supports that focus on vocational possibilities for young adults with ASD
  • Begin helping your child master adaptive skills, such as transportation and independent living
  • Explore residential/housing options
  • Determine a plan for your child’s future when you are no longer able to be the primary caregiver

Autism Resource Directory

We can help you find the services and resources you need. The Autism Resource Directory is a comprehensive online directory that links you to service providers, support groups, community resources and government programs across the nine-county Chicago metropolitan area — Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will.

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