Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What should I do if I suspect my child has autism?

    Get evaluated! Determining whether an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is present is helpful in that it can help guide the process of determining appropriate interventions.  We recommend that you seek an evaluation from your local school division at the same time you are pursuing an evaluation from other medical professionals. 

    Just because a child has a medical diagnosis of autism doesn’t mean that they will receive an educational diagnosis.  To receive special education and related services, a child must first be found eligible through the process used by the local education agency (LEA).  If there is any concern that a child may have autism, you should immediately contact the special education department of your local school division so that they can begin their assessment process.  Please access the Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE) website for more information.

    A medical diagnosis of autism should be performed by a team of professionals who specialize in the assessment and diagnosis of autism.  Team members may include professionals from the following disciplines: psychology, psychiatry, speech pathology, occupational therapy, behavior analysis and education. Look for diagnosis/assessment centers near you.

  2. What are the early signs of autism?
    There are some early indicators of Autism Spectrum Disorder. It’s important to monitor your child’s development and discuss any concerns you may have with your physician. The only way to know for sure if your child is on the autism spectrum is to have them officially assessed and diagnosed

  3. What should I do if I don’t agree with the services my school is providing for my child?
    Become familiar with the Virginia Department of Education Special Education Guide for parents.  This guide explains special education law, the special education process and outlines steps you may take for resolving disagreements.

  4. My child was just diagnosed, now what?
    Intervention!!!  While some interventions have been proven to be effective, others have little to no data to support their use.  We suggest that you carefully review this information when choosing interventions for your child.  This article The Road Less Traveled: Charting a Clear Course for Autism Treatment may help you navigate this process. Please visit the Newly Diagnosed, now what page of our website.

  5. I’ve researched the variety of interventions for Autism and want to  begin.  Where do I start?
    If you haven’t already done so, contact your local school division to see if your child qualifies for special education services.  Visit the list of resources provided to you on our website.

  6. How can I pay for some of these services my child needs?
    In Virginia services for children with autism can be paid for through private insurance, Medicaid, Medicaid waiver, grants or out of pocket.  Please visit our Funding Resources for information on each of these options and what they involve.   

  7. My child is having a lot of behavioral issues in school and at home, what can I do to help?
    Because of the core areas that are impacted for individuals with autism, it is not surprising that behavioral issues emerge.  Often times, these behaviors are occurring because the individual has no other way to communicate. Talk to your child’s educational team about your concerns.  It may be appropriate to conduct a functional behavior assessment (FBA) to determine how best to support your child through a behavior intervention plan (BIP).  You may also wish to contact a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA®) or a positive behavior support facilitator (PBS facilitator) to assist you. 

  8. What is ABA and how does it work for older children?
    Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA is a scientific approach to understanding socially significant behavior, how behavior works, and how learning takes place.  By analyzing the environment, trained professionals are able to determine certain triggers or events that may be causing the behavior to occur. With this information, it’s more likely that an intervention can be designed to help change that behavior. ABA is the use of techniques and principles, such as reinforcement, to address socially important problems and to bring about meaningful behavior change. Research documents that many ABA techniques are effective for building skills of all kinds of children, adolescents, and adults with autism. ABA methods are useful for helping individuals and families manage some of the difficult behaviors. Please visit our ABA resource list for a provider in your area.
  9. Will the school pay for me to send my child to private school?
    School divisions are obligated to provide a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) for your child.  The IEP team makes the decision of whether this can be provided within your division or whether it is necessary to seek the assistance of private providers.   Please refer to Virginia Department of Education’s Special Education Guide for more information on placement decisions.
  10. How do I become certified in ABA?
    There are two levels of certification in ABA: Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA). Each level requires a specific amount of coursework and supervision to sit for the certification exam. To learn more about this process you can find information under the BECOME CERTIFIED tab on the Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s website ( For information on colleges and universities offering coursework in Virginia, including distance education programs, go here