Access Services and Supports

Families raising children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) across the lifespan often find themselves in need of services and supports to meet the needs of their child with ASD and their family.  These supports can be thought of in two broad categories:  natural supports and paid supports.  Often natural supports are overlooked, and there is a heavier emphasis on accessing paid supports.  However, as children grow the availability of paid supports often becomes more limited.  Ideally families will early on create a balance between natural and paid supports in order to promote the best quality of life long term for the child with ASD and the family. 

What is a natural support?

A natural support is based on a relationship you develop regardless of your child’s disability.  For example, the relationship you have with family members, neighbors, coworkers, or friends.  Natural supports often create opportunities for people to participate in events or activities that promote inclusion and improve quality of life.  Natural supports are available to all of us, regardless of disability.  However, for the family of a child with ASD, it sometimes requires additional effort to build a natural support network.  

What is a paid support?

A paid support is based on the child’s disability and/or other eligibility criteria.  It is typically a service that is accessed as a direct result of the child’s disability, and is not freely available but is something that is paid for through insurance, private pay, or may be accessed through a publicly funded program such as special education or waivered services.  (consider asking Kathy or other parent to talk about strategic use of paid supports).

Purpose of this section

The purpose of this section of the website is to provide information and tools that help you self-assess the need for and availability of community resources for your child and family.


Identifying Resources - Creating an Ecomap

An Ecomap is a diagram that shows the social and personal relationships of an individual with his or her environment.  It can be a very useful tool in determining and organizing what services you are currently accessing as well as identifying the gaps in services you feel are missing.

  Download Ecomap Toolkit

Making Decisions about Interventions

Making decisions about interventions for your child can be a daunting task.  The amount of information that is available can be overwhelming and at times confusing because there are so many options for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  Below are several guidelines to assist you as a parent or caregiver in making decisions about what interventions you will access for your child. 

It is important to remember that helping your child is not limited to accessing paid, professional services.  Professional services and specific therapies are an important part of effective interventions for your child.  However, many resources in your community (natural supports) can also assist your child and your family in your journey. 

We hope these guidelines assist you as you make decisions for your child.

1.  Educate yourself about ASD, including understanding your child’s unique strengths and needs and what the research says about effective interventions for ASD.  Each person with ASD is unique.  Seek to understand your child’s unique needs and to access interventions that address those needs.   Educate yourself about effective interventions for ASD by reading books, accessing research articles, and accessing the information and websites below that provide summaries of these interventions.

Visit our Best Practices in Autism Treatment for additional information and resources  

2.  Identify goals and priorities for your child and family. As parents and caregivers, it is important for you to identify goals for your child that are important to you, your child, and your family.  Professionals and educators will set goals for your child when you access their services; however it is critical that you as a parent identify goals as well.  Write these goals down, and assure that they are included in any service your child accesses. 

3.  Decide who is on your child’s team.  Your child’s team should include a variety of people, not just paid supports.  Many people can contribute to your child’s success.  Once you have identified your child’s goals, consider who can help your child and family achieve those goals.  It may be a family member, friend, colleague, or a therapist.  For example, if you would like your child to learn how to play with other children there could be opportunity with a friend in your neighborhood or from your work with a child of a similar age. 

4.  Identify natural resources that may assist your child and family in achieving your goals.  Natural resources include supports and services that are available to anyone in your community. Examples of resources that may benefit your child or family can include going to the YMCA, participating in boy scouts or girl scouts, or having your next-door neighbor babysit your child.

5. Decide which specific interventions you will access for your child.  An intervention should be one that is appropriate for your child’s unique needs and meets the values and needs of your family.  Below are some questions to consider when making decisions about which specific intervention to access:

  •  Is the treatment approach a good fit for my child?  For my family?
  •  Different therapists and professionals provide services in different ways.  For example, some therapy is provided in a clinic setting with the child being the primary focus of the intervention and a parent observing or waiting in the waiting room.  Some therapy is provided in a natural setting, such as a home, and may involve a more hands on approach from parents and the therapist.  Each family must determine what is the best fit for their child and family.  
  •  Is the treatment appropriate for my child’s age and abilities?
  •  How will it fit into our child and families life?  If it requires many hours a week of therapy, how will that work for the family overall, including meeting the needs of   siblings?
  •  Is there scientific evidence to show that the intervention is effective?

6.  Consider financial resources and how you will pay for interventions.  Most families have some limitations on the amount of financial resources available to pay for services for their child with ASD.  Educate yourself about the financial resources available to you such as what is available through your private insurance policy, state funded programs, or your child’s educational program.  Also remember community-based services that may be lower cost but beneficial for your child and family.  Check out our financial resources page to learn more.  

7.  Regularly monitor your child’s progress towards the goals you have identified.  It is critical that you as a parent monitor your child’s progress to help you make decisions about their intervention plan.  For example, if your child is getting a certain type of therapy, identify some things you would like to see change as a result of that therapy.  Monitor your child’s progress towards those goals and if you don’t see changes in a few months talk with the therapist about how to make changes to the current intervention.  You can also monitor things you are doing at home.  For example, if you decide to try a new diet for your child identify two or three changes you would like to see as a result of the diet change.  Regularly monitor your child’s progress towards those goals to determine if the diet is working or if you need to make changes.  Consult a professional if needed to assist you.  It is important to monitor your child’s progress so you don’t spend precious resources (time, energy, money) on something that isn’t helping your child achieve the goals you have identified.


Expanding Natural Supports

What is a natural support? 

Natural supports are those resources you access in your community that are not specifically related to your child's disability.  Natural supports are resources that are available as a result of relationships with family, friends, and others in the community or daily routines. 

The Natural Supports toolkit provides additional information about natural supports and ideas for ways you and your family can increase your access to natural supports.  This toolkit was developed by Dee Blose and is shared with her permission.

  Download Natural Supports Toolkit

Going Out in the Community

Families with a child with ASD often experience challenges going out in the community.  As a result, many families report experiencing isolation and that they quit doing things that they once found meaningful, such as going out to eat, going to church, or joining family functions.  Our "Going Out in the Community" guide is intended to help you experience success so you can get back to doing the things you want or need to do, in the places you want to do them, and with the people you enjoy.

    Download Going Out in the Community Toolkit

Community of Practice

The Community of Practice for Supporting Families of Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) is a project to develop systems of support for families throughout the lifespan of their family member with I/DD.  Oklahoma was one of the original six states selected to participate in this project. 

On the Supports to Families website you can find a variety of tools and resources to help you as a family, or families you serve as a professional, plan and develop systems of support across the lifespan. 

Visit the Supports to Families website to access resources and additional information. 

You can also learn more about implementation of the Community of Practice project here in Oklahoma. 

Using Sensory Sensitive Events as a Starting Point

Sensory friendly events are social opportunities that are specifically designed with lower sensory demands in the place.  They can be wonderful opportunities for your loved one with ASD and/or your entire family to experience activities and places you may not typically go to because the sensory demands are too high. 

Now you may be asking yourself, “What is a sensory demand?”  A sensory demand refers to any type of sensory input (taste, touch, sight, sound, smell) that your body senses and your brain tries to interpret.  Individuals on the autism spectrum may be hyper-reactive or hypo-reactive to certain types of sensory input, and some individuals may have an increased interest in a specific form of sensory input.  Every person is different, and everyone’s reaction to sensory input will be different as well. 

While every sensory friendly event is unique, there tend to be some common themes.  Typical sensory adjustments will include modifying the lighting, making visual displays “less busy” or more predictable, eliminating specific sounds, lowering sound volume, etc.  Organizers may also label certain areas with sensory features such as “low light” or “loud area.”  The pace of the event is typically slower, the social rules are a bit more relaxed, and individuals and groups usually have more freedom to explore rather than follow a tight schedule.  

Sensory friendly activities can be a helpful tool for you to see how your child interacts with a certain environment or if he/she enjoys a specific activity.  If this is a place or activity that your child enjoys, you can use sensory friendly events to help build skills and stamina to help your loved one attend a place or event during regular business hours.

To make a plan for going out in the community for a sensory friendly event, please use our “Going Out in the Community” Toolkit that is available in this section.  


Provider Directory

Our provider directory offers a list of professionals in Oklahoma who provide services for individuals (children and adults) with ASD and their families.  Providers are listed only if they give us permission to include them on our directory. 

Disclaimer: The Oklahoma Autism Network maintains these provider lists as a service to families. We do not endorse or claim to have personal knowledge of the abilities of those listed. We urge you to make independent judgment when selecting a professional. You may consider visiting our 'Best Practices' section for additional information.

Financial Resources

It is helpful to understand options that are available to help pay for services and supports for a child or adult with ASD.  The financial resources section of our website provides information to help you navigate the resources and options that are available.