Getting a diagnosis for your child is extremely time-consuming and mentally draining. You probably had to take a lot of time off of work to help them get to doctor's appointments, speech therapy appointments, occupational therapy and school. There were the IEP meetings and the teacher meetings and the caregiver arrangements, and that was all while you were trying to hold down a full-time job. What's a parent to do?
The good news is that getting a ASD diagnosis for your child means that you may now be able to take leave from your job to care for them. If you have been employed for 12 months in your current job, you could be eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In order to apply, you will have to meet these requirements, outlined below.
- Your employer must be "covered," meaning that they generally need to have more than 50 employees (but other employers are eligible under state laws).
- You must have worked for at least 1250 hours in the 12 months before you take a leave (that works out to be about 24 hours a week).
- You must work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your worksite.
There are other more specific rules for employees of airlines, schools and government offices, so check with your employer's human resources department to verify your eligibility. You also will need to have your child's physician verify the diagnosis in your application for leave.
Because a developmental disorder like autism requires you to care for your child using a number of unique services, you may need to make arrangements with your employer to use your leave for both expected and unexpected instances (appointments vs. meltdowns, for example). You may also need to educate them on the nuances of developmental disorders and how they affect your ability to care for your child. But those extra efforts may be worth it if it means you can keep your career and care for your child, too.