Help for Families with Kids with Autism as School Resumes
Fall is here and COVID-19 is still having a huge impact on us all. As kids return to school – in a mostly remote learning environment – parents and kids are facing a whole new set of challenges.
For parents of children with autism and other developmental disabilities, the challenges are even greater. These parents know all too well that participating in school remotely usually requires intensive supervision and assistance to help ensure these special kids are successful. But with many parents going off to work each day or working from home, some are struggling to figure out how to manage work or other responsibilities while their child is attending school virtually.
Given the situation, many parents don’t know where to turn for help. But thankfully, various services and resources are available. You may be able to get the care and support you need – if you know where to look.
Your Local Regional Center
Parents can do their own research to get a clear picture of resources available in their community. With a bit of sleuthing and exploring the internet, it’s possible to find out what’s available locally. For residents in California, a good first step is to check out the local regional center website to identify resources offered.
In California, local regional centers, which are affiliated with the California Department of Developmental Services (DDS), coordinate access to state-funded services for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism and related conditions.
Your local regional center may be able to provide you with support from a contracted services provider that can offer an extra pair of hands to help guide your child with signing into sessions and staying on task through class instructions and individual work – all while maintaining appropriate behaviors. While this support is not intended to be a tutoring service, staff are equipped to promote engagement for a healthy learning environment and convey instructions or assignments, thus providing relief for parents or other caregivers.
Some regional centers conduct virtual informational meetings where parents can learn more about various services available. If your local regional center offers a virtual meeting option, this is probably the best and easiest way to identify services available in your area and how to qualify. If a virtual meeting is not offered in your area, you’ll need to explore information on the regional center website or connect with the local center via phone.
It’s worth noting that because of the current public health emergency, additional funds for services that were not available before the COVID-19 crisis are now available for emergent cases, so contacting your regional center could be beneficial. Even if you are already receiving services from your regional center, you may qualify for additional services that you aren’t getting now.
If you aren’t sure which regional center serves the area where you live, you can check the Regional Center Listings to find the center nearest you.
Types of Support Available
Support options can vary, depending on where you live, and may include the following. While all these types of services are helpful, daycare services are probably most valuable for parents who need assistance with kids that are distance learning.
- Traditional Respite / Behavior Respite: In-home respite services that provide parents or other caregivers a temporary break from their caregiving responsibilities.
- Daycare services: In-home services where care is provided to an individual while the parents or other primary caregivers are working or attending an educational program. These services are particularly helpful during summer/winter/spring vacation or other situations when parents cannot be at home to provide care.
- Attendant Care / Personal Assistance: Provided in-home, in the community or in other facilities such as a group home, this service is intended to provide 1:1 or 2:1 service as an “extra pair of hands” for family members or caregivers who need support helping loved ones complete activities of daily living. This service is also helpful with community-based activities such as attending doctor’s appointments or participating in extracurricular activities.
Once you’ve identified options that may be available through your local regional center, how do you get services you need?
- If you already receive some services from your regional center, you can contact your service coordinator to discuss additional services you want to request.
- If you are new to the local regional center, you’ll need to complete an application process to determine your eligibility to receive services through your local center. This can be done by either completing an online questionnaire or by calling the regional center intake department. The regional center will determine your eligibility. If you are eligible, you’ll be assigned to a service coordinator who will help you get services you need. Many families qualify for state-funded services, but if you aren’t eligible for state-funded services, some service providers can still provide care through self-pay options.
Your Service Coordinator is the Key
Your service coordinator is your representative and is responsible for evaluating your situation and recommending services that are available and appropriate for you. Remember, your service coordinator takes care of many families in your area, so it’s important that you prepare for your conversation and be ready to provide a detailed explanation to justify the services and support you are requesting. Be as clear and concise as possible, and convey your circumstances using a fact-based vs. an emotional approach. Be persistent if you need to be.
Use this checklist to help outline particular circumstances and justification for requested support:
- Parent(s) returning to work
- Lack of family support or availability for childcare from family members
- Only distance learning options available for school
- No after school or supplementary programs available
- Increase in problematic behaviors while at home
- Financial concerns or inability to pay for childcare services
- Sickness or death in the family
- Life crisis such as divorce
If you still aren’t sure about respite, daycare, attendant care or personal assistance services or if these services are right for you and your family, you can request a consult to schedule a complimentary 30-minute phone consultation with one of our respite care specialists to learn more about your care options and for help with next steps in the process.