My Preschool-Age Child Was Just Diagnosed with ASD — Now What?!


You need to attend to 3 things.

Education – You do not need a medical diagnosis to be evaluated and receive special education services, but if your child has a diagnosis please enroll your child in school! This may mean another evaluation, this time an educational evaluation, which is free. Contact your local county education center to begin this process.

  • Pennsylvania: CONNECT Helpline at 1-800-692-7288
  • New Jersey: Regional System Point of Entry at 1-888-653-4463
  • Delaware:
    • Child Development Watch at 1-800-752-9393
    • New Castle County at 302-283-7240
    • Kent and Sussex Counties at 302-424-7300

If your child qualifies for special education services, you will help to create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) (called an Individualized Family Service Plan – or IFSP in Pennsylvania) that will specify the services your child will receive.

Read more about education for preschool children in the CAR Autism Roadmap™. Visit the Education page and use the filters on the left side of the screen to choose “Age – Preschool.” In particular, you may want to begin with the following articles:

Behavioral Health – Consider your child and if a behavior program can support his or her learning. If a child has interfering behaviors, he or she is likely not able to take advantage of the education program, therapy instruction, etc.

Behavioral health programming varies from state to state.

Pennsylvania offers specific health insurance to cover behavioral health services at no charge for those children who qualify. For some families, employer-provided family health insurance may cover these services. Read the following article to learn more:

New Jersey shares the responsibility for this support between the schools and the Office of Developmental Disabilities. Contact your local school district or seek more information from:

Delaware supports children with behavioral needs through the state education system and with support from Autism Delaware. Contact your local school or seek more information from:

Read more about behavioral health on the CAR Autism Roadmap™. Visit the Healthcare & Treatment page and use the filters on the left hand side of the screen to choose “Specific Therapies – Behavior.”

Medical Health – Most children are followed medically by a primary care physician, usually a pediatrician or a family practice physician. Your child’s primary care physician can help you determine if an appointment with a medical specialist may be indicated. Medical specialists can treat symptoms that may contribute to some of the difficulties your child may be having.

The following articles within the CAR Autism Roadmap™ may be helpful to you:

The rest is optional!

Take a breath and think about yourself and your family. How are you doing? There is no right way or wrong way to feel. Sometimes this diagnosis feels overwhelming, sometimes very doable. It is most important to remember that your child is the same loving, adorable, wonderful child he or she was before getting the diagnosis. The label simply puts language around the symptoms you were worried about and now a plan will be put in place to treat those concerns.

The Center for Autism Research (CAR) offers Next Steps workshops for families of individuals with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In particular, you may be interested in attending Next Steps for Families of Young Children. The schedule can be found on the Events Page of the CAR Website. We welcome you to attend. In the meantime, you may find the following articles helpful:

Last Updated: June 16, 2020

The Center for Autism Research and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia do not endorse or recommend any specific person or organization or form of treatment. The information included within the CAR Autism Roadmap™ and CAR Resource Directory™ should not be considered medical advice and should serve only as a guide to resources publicly and privately available. Choosing a treatment, course of action, and/or a resource is a personal decision, which should take into account each individual's and family's particular circumstances.

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