Submitted by The Edinburg Center
Erin Boudreau will never forget the day her seven-year-old son was diagnosed with autism and how lost and alone she felt. On the occasion of 2023 Autism Acceptance Month in April, Boudreau wants to help other families dealing with the life-changing diagnosis.
“We came home from the neurologist with a packet as thick as the yellow pages with suggestions and providers. It was really overwhelming,” she said.
Boudreau and her son, Walker, who is now 11, eventually found The Edinburg Center, a Bedford-based human resources nonprofit that serves thousands of families across Middlesex County. Edinburg provides Walker with behavioral therapy. The therapist comes to the family’s home three times a week to work with him on daily living activities and coping skills.
“The main thing to remember is that you’re not alone,” said Edinburg’s Sr. Director of Autism Services Carol Gillis.
Autism is becoming more common with one in 36 children now diagnosed. Gillis offers these five tips for parents who have just learned that their child is on the autism spectrum.
- Work with your insurance provider to determine which services it will cover, including Applied Behavior Analysis therapy (a gold standard treatment for autism), speech therapy, occupational therapy and mental health support.
- Apply for Mass Health insurance.
- Apply for services from the state Department of Developmental Services (DDS).
- Reach out to an autism support center, join support groups.
- Practice self-care.
Boudreau’s best advice to parents is to “trust your gut.” Walker was born premature and doctors often blamed his delays and “quirkiness” on that, Boudreau said. But she always suspected it was more than that.
“We were brushed off so many times,” she remembers. “If you’re thinking there’s something up with your kid, trust your parent’s intuition. There’s nobody else that’s going to do the advocacy for your kid other than you. You need to push for them.”
After finally getting the diagnosis and a huge packet of information, Boudreau hit the internet.
“I went on my local town’s Facebook page and looked up our schools’ special education parents advisory committee. I did a thread search for providers and programs that were recommended by other parents. Then, I did some Google research on my own of what places were nearby and what people had to say about them. I made a lot of phone calls to talk to people and get a read on different services.”
Ultimately, the Boudreaus found The Edinburg Center.
Her final words of advice? “Days are going to be hard, but there are resources out there to help you and your kid. Once you find this community, you’ll realize you aren’t all by yourself. That makes a difference.”