Autism Resources for Parents

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Signs, symptoms, and red flags

The Autism Speaks website explains what Autism Spectrum Disorder is, and tells you what signs to watch for in your child (en español).

Parents can complete the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT), a screening tool that assesses the risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder in children between 16 and 30 months of age. Discuss the results with your child's pediatrician.

You can also take a look at this Developmental Checklist for general information about children's developmental milestones, and to see if your child is showing any "red flags" that would indicate that evaluation and/or intervention is needed. (Lista de verificación del Desarrollo) (Danh sách kiểm tra phát triển)

What to do if you have concerns about your child

Pediatrician appointment

Make an appointment with your child's pediatrician to talk about your concerns. 

Early childhood intervention

If your child is under the age of 3, you can call 1-800-628-5115 to see if your child qualifies for Early Childhood Intervention services through the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (en español). Your child does not need to have a medical diagnosis or a doctor's referral to receive these services. The initial evaluation is provided at no cost to the family. 

School district evaluation

If your child is between the ages of 3 and 21, he/she may be eligible to receive services through your local school district. A doctor's referral is not needed. The first step is to submit a written request for an evaluation to your local (zoned) school. Download a sample letter to request the evaluation, and visit Texas Project First to learn more about services that may be available through the school district. (en español)

Autism Center evaluation

Ask your child's pediatrician for a referral for your child to be evaluated at the Autism Center at Texas Children's Hospital. We now require a physician referral for all new patients. For more information about how your child can become a patient at the Autism Center, visit our how to become a patient page. There are also other providers in the community who provide ASD evaluations. Contact your insurance company for a list of in-network providers, or visit the Autism Speaks website to find a provider near you.

Speech and language therapy and occupational therapy

Talk to your child's pediatrician about whether a Speech and Language Evaluation and/or an Occupational Therapy Evaluation is appropriate for your child. There are many providers who can perform these evaluations and services. You can check with your insurance provider, or check out this list to find a provider near you.

What to do if your child has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Applied behavior analysis

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the recommended, evidence-based intervention for many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Depending on your child's needs, ABA therapy may be a good option. For further information about ABA and to learn how to find an ABA provider,visit Families for Effective Autism Treatment (FEAT) Houston and/or the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.

Early Childhood Intervention (ECI)

If your child is under the age of 3, you can call 1-800-628-5115 to see if your child qualifies for Early Childhood Intervention services through the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (en español). A medical referral and/or diagnosis is NOT needed to receive ECI services, and the initial evaluation is provided at no cost to families.

Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities (PPCD)

If your child is between the ages of 3 and 5, you can request to have your child evaluated by your local school district for the Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities. If your child qualifies, this program is provided at no cost to the family. Download a sample letter to request an evaluation, and visit Texas Project First to learn more about the PPCD program. (en español)

School evaluation

If your child is between the ages of 6 and 21, you can request to have your child evaluated by the school district to determine if he/she qualifies for special education services or other accommodations. Download a sample letter to request an evaluation from the school district. Visit Texas Project First to learn more about what services and/or accommodations may be available through the school district. (en español)

Speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and/or physical therapy

Your child's pediatrician or evaluation specialist may have recommended speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, or physical therapy, depending on your child's needs. You can call your insurance provider or check out this list of pediatric therapy providers to find a provider near you.

Social skills intervention

Individuals with ASD may have difficulties navigating the social world they live in. Depending on your child's level of functioning, he/she may benefit from participating in social skills groups or classes in order to learn strategies and increase socialization opportunities. Take a look at this list of social skills groups in the greater Houston area to find one near you.

Parenting and support

As a parent, you may be having difficulties adjusting to your child's diagnosis or having difficulty managing his/her behavior. There are many parents who are going through a similar situation, and there are ways to gain support and assistance. Take a look at this list of parent resources to find parenting classes, behavior management providers, and support groups in the greater Houston area.

Medicaid waiver programs

Place your child on the wait lists for the appropriate Medicaid waiver programs. The most common programs for children with an ASD diagnosis are the HCS and the CLASS waivers. Depending on your child's needs, there may be others that he/she will qualify for. Don't delay! These lists have extensive wait times, some as long as 10 to 12 years. (en español)

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Based on your child's level of functioning and your family's income, your child may be eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI). For more information about eligibility requirements and the process of applying for benefits, take a look at this brochure from the Social Security Administration about social security benefits for children with disabilities. (Beneficios para niños con incapacidades) (Quyền Lợi cho Trẻ Em Bị Tàn Tật)

Helpful websites and organizations

Arc of Greater Houston 
Association for Science in Autism Treatment
Autism Society of America
Autism Speaks
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 
Families for Effective Autism Treatment
Mental Health America of Greater Houston 
MHMRA of Harris County 
National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) 
National Research Council 
OASIS @ MAAP 
Psychology Today 
Texana Center MHMRA 
Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) 
Wrights Law  

Other resources

Creating the Optimal Environment for a Kid with ADHD
Suggested Classroom Interventions for Children with ADD & Learning Disabilities
The Life-Changing Impact of Autism Service Dogs
Addressing Special Education Needs for Students Learning English as a Second Language
22 Tips for Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders
50 Must-See Blogs for Special Education Teachers
The Ultimate Guide to Water Safety for Parents and Caregivers of Children with Autism
Teaching Your Child About Peers with Special Needs
Teaching College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Autism and Addiction: Coping with and Treating Your Dual Diagnosis
Choosing a College: Planning for Teens with ADD
College Resources for Students with Disabilities