It can take years of patience to help parents see that their child may need more than s/he can get from your program. As has been said before, document, document, document. I'm assuming you have fully assessed the child multiple times in various ways before speaking with the family. As I teach in my workshops, when you speak of specifics, make sure all of the positives are outlined and fully explained. Then, try to lump the difficulties under as few umbrellas as you can, so the family is not overwhelmed. I would not use the phrase "to identify (or eliminate) the possibility of being on the autism spectrum". If they see that there are a few areas of concern and see that you would like more information to see some other ways to help the child, it's not as scary. As far as the child's pediatrician - many years ago, I said if I had a nickel for every pediatrician who said, don't worry, he/or she will grow out of it, I'd be very rich. For the most part, they are not trained in child development. I know because with a hospital, I started a pediatric rotation in the hospital's child care center (which I directed). The first batch of doctors included a parent of a child in our center. EVERY one of them said the same thing at the end of just 3 mornings at the center - "I couldn't believe it!" "Those kids are amazing!" None of their training included seeing children who weren't either sick or in severely special needs programs. They had no idea what "typical" children were like. Our center served children from 1-4 and included children who were slower and faster to develop and those in between as well. That program lasted at least 10 years after I left the hospital position.
CDC's "Learn the Signs. Act Early." (LTSAE) has FREE research-based, parent-friendly resources on child development to help you boost family engagement. The training below is an excellent resource for partnerships with parents that support developmental monitoring. www.cdc.gov
Peggy KempLTSAE AmbassadorKS
Another resource you might be interested in is the following article available open access online. As a professional and as a parent, this article has been extremely helpful.
Working With Families:Rethinking DenialPeggy A Gallagher, Ph.D., Georgia State University, Janice Fialka, MSW, Parent,Cheryl Rhodes, MSW, Georgia State University, and Cindy Arceneaux, ParentReprinted with permissionYoung Exceptional Children: Vol. 5Excerpt:Shifting Your Perspectives on DenialSuggestions for professionals:• Support parents' hopes and dreams for their child.• Suspend judgment of families and their behavior.• Be patient. People need time to find their own personal way through unexpected events.• View this time as an opportunity to strengthen trust.• Educate other professionals and family members to rethink denialPeggy Kemp