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The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can feel overwhelming. Why did this happen to my child? What do we do now?

The Autism Spectrum Center at Boston Children's Hospital is dedicated to supporting you as you cope with your child's diagnosis and navigate his care. We'll make specific recommendations for therapy plans and provide guidance for accessing those therapies in your community.

  • Boston Children’s Hospital resources: We have a number of resources including our family support and education team, My Hospital Stories, behavioral support plans, and lecture series. Also, sign up for our informational email newsletter.
  • New England and national resources: View a list of helpful local and national resources that support patients and families with autism.
  • Family education and support: Check out our helpful guides and resources on educational services, common transitions, parent self-care, insurance, bullying, and sibling support.
  • Transition to adulthood: Find information about employment, education, social/independent living, guardianship, financial planning, transportation, and health care.

Quick tips for parents and families

Challenges are part of parenting any child. If your child has ASD, you may find yourself facing some especially tough challenges. Here is some advice that many families find helpful:

  • Maintain a consistent routine, both at home and at school.
  • Talk to your child’s teachers and therapists to learn how you can reinforce at home the strategies they are using during the day.
  • It’s perfectly OK to take breaks from therapy-related activities and allow your child free time.
  • Let your child pick what she wants to do when possible.
  • Talk with your provider if you need help getting support for you or your child, including counseling, behavioral services, respite, information about special needs recreation, and mentoring.

Mealtime tips

  • Establish a structured mealtime, offering meals and snacks at around the same time each day.
  • Serve at least one food you know your child likes.
  • Keep mealtime calm, and limit distractions.
  • Join your child during meals.
  • Allow your child to feed himself if he can.

Sleep tips

  • Follow a predictable, structured nighttime routine.
  • Create a quiet mood at bedtime by lowering the lights, limiting screen time, and doing calming activities.

Tips for outings and special events

  • Prepare your child beforehand so he knows what to expect. It may help to:
    • use pictures
    • use Boston Children’s “My Hospital Stories” resources
    • explain, to the best of your knowledge, what will happen
    • role play at home what’s going to happen
  • Create a schedule for the outing and build in structured activities that your child enjoys.
  • Try to keep your expectations reasonable. It may help to keep the outing short.
  • Do your best to stay calm if something unexpected happens. Children can usually pick up on a parent’s anxiety.

Education and early intervention guides

  • The Federation for Children with Special Needs provides an extensive manual for Massachusetts residents, “A Parent's Guide to Special Education.”
  • For children under 3, the Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services provides detailed information on Early Intervention, available to families of children with developmental difficulties. Family Ties of Massachusetts manages a city-by-city listing of programs.
  • If you live outside of Massachusetts, our team can direct you to helpful resources.

This is a tremendous amount of information. We encourage you not to try to read everything at once, but to look specifically at the resources that are most helpful for you now, and to return to others as you need them. We are happy to guide you.