At this point, we're assuming you have received a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. Hearing from your physician that your child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be an emotional, difficult, and perhaps overwhelming time.

Listed to the right are recommended first steps, compiled from several sources, including parents who have been where you are now.They are in no particular order. But all are important.

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Resources and programs differ according to your child’s age. To go directly to what is available for your child, please select their current age:

Birth to Three

Three to Eight

Eight to Adulthood


‘Keep looking for new ideas & friends.’ -Judy, Juneau

‘Take this journey one step at a time and don’t be afraid to ask for help.’ -Beth, Fitchburg

‘It gets better! Do everything you can to help your child, but love them every day for where they are at the moment.’ -Dee Dee, Middleton

‘Take on one issue at a time, and be sure to take time for yourself and your other children too’. –Erin, Stevens Point

‘Breathe. Just breathe.’ -Lori, Independence

‘Just because you’ve had a setback it does not mean you should give up. Fight for a better life with all of your might.’ -Stephanie, Barron

‘Get connected to another family that has been through the process (a mentor).’ -Katie, Portage

‘You can do this. You are not alone!’ -Bob, West Bend

First Steps

Be comfortable with the diagnosis.

If you aren't, contact the scheduler of the diagnosing physician and ask who they would recommend for a second opinion. Don't worry; you won't hurt anyone's feelings by asking. It’s important that you’re comfortable with the diagnosis. Talk with other parents, do your own research.

Remember that your child is the exact same person they were before the diagnosis.

The difference is that now you have the means to know what you can do to potentially lessen the negative aspects of their autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Identify the support systems available to you, and reach out to them. Including friends, family and community.

Local support groups are available in many Wisconsin communities. All groups are different and unique, and have their own qualities. If you go to one group and find that it doesn't quite suit you, try another, until you find one that fits. Also, several online discussion groups exist for families. Share the news of the diagnosis with close family members and friends.

Know in your heart that as parents, you have done nothing to cause this to happen.

The cause of autism spectrum disorder is unknown, and might never be clear. Focus on what you do from here. Don’t look back or second-guess past decisions.

Start learning about the treatment options available, and don’t delay getting started.

Most therapies have the greatest chance of success when they are started immediately and when the child is as young as possible, especially with communicative difficulties. There’s a lot to know, and we’re here to help you sort it all out. And if we can’t help, we’ll get you to those that can.

Find a compatible medical professional within your current insurance network, if you have private insurance.

Having a caring physician who shares your feelings & beliefs is very important to future success. It might be your child's current physician. Or it might not. And if it's not - know that it's okay to seek someone who may be a better fit. If you don't have that now, find it. If you need to make a change, consider referrals from friends or other parents at support groups. Parents & patients change doctors all the time – please be assured that you won’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

Get organized, grab a notebook, make a calendar.

Find ten minutes every evening to start keeping a journal. Record every aspect of your child's day. What they ate, appointments, their bathroom patterns, any medication (or changes in medication), behavior comments, and your own thoughts. This information becomes incredibly valuable as time goes on.

If your child is younger than three, contact the Birth to Three program in your county to request a determination of eligibility for services.

Birth to Three is Wisconsin's early intervention program for infants and toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities. Even if you’re not sure if their services would benefit your child, contact them anyway and let them determine that.

For children older than three, provide your elementary school office a letter requesting an evaluation for Special Education Services. Share the medical diagnosis your child has received. Date the letter, and keep a copy for yourself.

A medical diagnosis does not guarantee services at school. An educational determination is still needed. A letter from the parents requesting the evaluation starts the process, and with it, timely action is required by the school. Here's more information about what you can expect to happen next.

If you have private insurance, contact the customer service department of that company to inquire about coverage for services associated with an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.

Just in case, here's more information about Wisconsin's insurance coverage mandate when it comes to autism spectrum disorders.

Contact your county health & human services office to inquire about what programs or services you may be eligible for. Even if you have good private insurance, this is still an important step.

If you’re uninsured, getting medical coverage is important. Medicaid will often cover items you'll need that private insurance may not, or it may cover copays. Some types of Medicaid are based upon need, not income, so whatever your circumstances, be sure to apply. There are a variety of resources available to families to support them keeping their child at home – which may include covering registration costs to attend conferences or seminars to get informed… technology... Home safety equipment… and more. There is often a waiting list for these resources. Apply, and they will determine for you what programs you're eligible for.