Diagnosis Autism: Immediate Action

For most parents, the diagnosis of autism is an emotionally challenging and life-changing event. You may feel shocked or overwhelmed by your child’s diagnosis, reactions that are quite natural and understandable. Despite the mix of emotions and confusion in those first moments, it’s important for you to know that all is not lost and life still holds possibilities for your child. Most significantly, there are things you can do. Through informed action and the use of appropriate treatments and interventions, you can enhance the quality of your child’s life in the long term.

Research being conducted in the field of autism has yielded concrete options from which you and the professionals on your child’s team can choose to help your child. It isn’t yet possible to accurately predict how much progress your child will make, but the consensus within the medical community is that early intervention can greatly improve the quality of life for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.

If your child is diagnosed with autism, read more about autism and services and autism services at:

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTAC)
Organization for Autism Research (OAR)

In addition, MilitaryOneSource offers a Special Needs Parent Toolkit that explains medical and special education services, community support and benefits and entitlements in six PDF modules that are easily downloaded and printed. This is a great place to start learning about early intervention services and being an effective advocate for your child.

Ask your child’s PCP for a consult to Case Management
or ask your Military Treatment Facility (MTF) Information Center / Customer Service Center how to contact the Case Management office. Case managers may work for the MTF and be directly available; or work for the Managed Care Support Contractor and be available by phone. A Case Manager can be very helpful in guiding and/or assisting you in obtaining services for your child. The case manager should have a list of local support services for all families and for families with autism. Support can also be obtained from:

  • a local Autism Society. Find the Chapter closest to you by clicking here and selecting the chapter closet to you listed below.
  • a local Families for Early Autism Treatment (FEAT) Chapter. Find the Chapter closest to you by clicking here. Local FEAT pages are listed in the left navigation panel.
  • NECTAC. Select "Family-Centered Services" from the drop-down menu under Topic Pages. Scroll down to the Family Supports section and click on "Parents Centers" or "TA Alliance for Parent Centers."

It is important to enroll your child in the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP).
Contact the EFMP Office at your base, or contact your child’s PCP, or your Case Manager for information. You can read about EFMP at:

The EFMP is designed to support active duty service members who have a family member with a medical condition that requires special medical, dental, mental health, developmental or educational services. Enrollment in the program is mandatory for active duty personnel in all services. The program aids assignment of the active duty member to locations where services needed by the family member are available and has links to support services for the family.

What a Parent Can Expect Following the Diagnosis

Coping with your child’s diagnosis of autism may be difficult—not just for you, but also for siblings, extended family members, and friends of the family. It is not uncommon for parents and other loved ones to experience any number of emotions after the diagnosis, which can range from confusion and anger to hope or despair. Many parents find it helpful to discuss these issues with a counselor or parent support group during the period of adjustment. In addition to your regular sources of support: family, neighbors, church, community, you will find excellent support from autism parents and autism organizations at the local, state, and national levels. You will likely find the most direct support at the local level, with more comprehensive and general autism information at the state and national levels. See the Autism Links section on this site for information and links to the some of the most informative sites.

Become an Informed Consumer of Information

You will have to put a great deal of time and effort into becoming a knowledgeable consumer of information as you learn how to evaluate treatment claims. General information on autism can be full of false hope and anecdotal information. From this point on, you will be the primary advocate for your child, so it will be important for you to be able to evaluate your child’s needs with the research supporting various interventions for autism. Although much information about autism is available, there is no central resource for it. Furthermore, there can be conflicting opinions about the best methods of treatment to use. You will have to gather information from a variety of sources, including the Internet, mass media, professional journals, reports from conferences and workshops, and educational providers. Networking with other parents and educational or medical professionals will also help you identify sources of information that have been useful to others. What you choose for your child may well end up coming from a number of different sources and a variety of approaches.

A word of caution is in order:
Beware of those who claim to have a cure. Your hopes for your child may leave you vulnerable to those marketing a variety of educational, medical, and other alternative treatments for autism. An emotional appeal from these promoters can be difficult to resist. Although many promoters of various treatments truly believe in their products or services, few of these fads or miracle cures hold up when scientifically tested.

One of the purposes of this site is to provide you with some basic tools for evaluating the validity of these sorts of claims. It is our hope that this site will help prepare you to ask the right questions of your child’s doctors, therapists, and teachers about specific interventions when you are faced with new treatment decisions for your child.