Where to Find Support for You and Your Special Needs Child
Having a child with special needs can feel pretty isolating, but it doesn’t have to be! There are numerous resources around West Michigan just waiting to serve you and connect you with the support you need.
Our hope is to provide a starting point for families that are wondering if their child needs additional services or intervention, plus a link to support groups for parents and anything else a family with special needs might want to be aware of.
We recognize that this is not a full list of special needs resources and hope you will help us grow the list. If you know of anything else that could help families with special needs, please leave us a comment below and we will add it to our guide.
If you’ve used any of these services please leave a comment and let others know how they have helped you.
And please, share this list with others so that we may make it as complete as possible.
Austism Affects Kids in West Michigan
Characteristics Often Seen in Children on the Spectrum
Sensitivity to sounds, difficulty relating to others, excessive interest in specific topics or subjects, unexpected emotional responses, and picky eating….
Have you ever met a child like this? Does your child display some of these traits?
This is just a small sample of some of the characteristics often seen in children who fall on the autism spectrum.
Autism is referred to as a “spectrum disorder” because there is such a wide variety of severity. You may have heard terms such as Asperger’s, classic autism, or high-functioning autism. All have some of the same underlying difficulties but can present themselves very differently. Some children show significant delays from a very young age. Other kids are considered “quirky” for many years, and not diagnosed until later.
Children Can Make Great Improvements
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 88 American children are on the autism spectrum. The good news? Children on the autism spectrum can make significant improvement in their ability to function at home and school and in the community. Research continues to show that early intervention for children on the autism spectrum is crucial to their success.
Just as there are differences between all kinds of kids, there are many differences between children on the autism spectrum. There is no “one size fits all” approach to their diagnosis and treatment. As a school social worker, I have worked with many students with autism over the years.
Different Methods Work With Different Kids
I have learned that certain methods (such as the use of visual supports) work for nearly all children with autism. I have also learned that you have to be creative with each kid. You have to incorporate their intense interests into therapy and start where they are.
I worked with a student several years ago who had some unique obsessions. She loved princesses, obsessively picked at the skin around her fingernails, and was terrified of the fire alarm at school.
We tried consequences for picking skin and rewards for not picking. No luck. If we told her about fire drills ahead of time, she would obsess about it all day. If we did not tell her about the fire drills she would simply rifle through every teacher’s belongings until she found the staff notes which revealed whether or not there was a fire drill that week.
Our eventual solutions? We let her wear long silky princess gloves (I think I may have worn them in my friend’s wedding many years ago) so she was unable to pick at her nails. We also made her the “fire marshall” at school and let her pull the fire alarm when it was time for a fire drill (while wearing noise-blocking headphones, of course).
It Takes a Team
Those ideas were not all mine: it took a team of us (including her parents) who were willing to work together, try lots of new ideas, and love this girl for the kid that she was.
I have seen several students on the autism spectrum make dramatic improvements over the years. It takes diligence on the part of the parents, cooperation with the school, and a whole lot of patience.
Accepting that your child is “different,” but still recognizing all of his or her talents is key. Advocating for your child in all settings (school, child care, the community, with your relatives and elsewhere) is also important.
Talk to Your Doctor
If you have concerns about your child’s development, your pediatrician is a good place to start. He or she should be able to suggest whether you should pursue further evaluation and/or treatment. Your child’s preschool, school, or local ISD are all good resources, too.
West Michigan Resources for Families with a Child on the Spectrum
Project Find (800-252-0052) or Early On can both point you in the right direction if you want to have your young child evaluated.
More resources for learning more about autism and treatment options: