What support can Regional Center provide for kids with Level 1 autism?
Prior to age 3, a formal diagnosis is not necessary to be eligible for early intervention services from Regional Center as long as the child is showing delays in certain developmental areas (see this article for eligibility criteria). After age 3, Regional Center eligibility requires both a formal diagnosis and significant functional limitations in at least three of the following areas: self-care, receptive and expressive language, learning, mobility, self-direction, and capacity for independent living and economic self-sufficiency (as appropriate based on the child’s age).
Sometimes, a child with Level 1 autism may be denied by Regional Center because their academic skills are “too advanced.” The implication is that someone who is performing well academically cannot be eligible for Regional Center services, but this is not accurate. Cognition and learning are only two developmental areas under consideration. A child with Level 1 autism who has strong academic skills may still struggle in a variety of adaptive areas. Additionally, a child may have varying strengths and deficits in different areas of cognition and learning. A proper evaluation for Regional Center eligibility should take all appropriate categories of development into consideration, and parents should prepare for the application process by documenting deficits in all areas of concern. Services you may want to explore might include social skills classes and social-recreational opportunities, independent living skills, adaptive skills training, behavioral therapy, and others.
For more information about Regional Center services, see our article Regional Center 101.