Diagnosed cases of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in America’s youth have been on the rise for the past two decades. Today, approximately one in every 68 children in the US is considered to be “on the spectrum.”
In recent years, our understanding of autism and the challenges it presents have increased dramatically. However, it wasn’t that long ago that we knew very little about ASD, and treatment was practically non-existent. With no awareness, there was no funding, no organizations, no research. Autism was looked at as a learning disability; parents and children had to make due as best they could by themselves or with, at best, inadequate care.
Thankfully, that’s in the past. Today, autism is recognized as a developmental disorder and is the subject of a great deal of research. One of the crucial things this research has revealed is that early intervention for autism is the most effective way to improve later quality of life for a child with ASD.
What Is Early Intervention for Autism?
There is no strict definition of “early intervention” in relation to autism spectrum disorder. Studies have shown that children as young as 18 months can benefit from therapy, although the more subtle signs of ASD may elude a doctor’s eye until the child is older. However, depending on what state you live in, it is not necessary to have a medical diagnosis of ASD to begin addressing suspected problems.
Lacking a doctor’s diagnosis can make the decision to start your child on an early intervention program seem premature or unnecessary. In the case of autism, however, it can make all the difference. Early intervention for autism is particularly effective in children as young as two because their brain is still forming. At this critical stage in a child’s development, treatment is more likely to have long-term effects on the child’s ultimate progress. Although rare, early intervention can be so effective that a child could potentially lose their ASD diagnosis altogether.
A Profile of Early Intervention
Early intervention typically begins with an assessment of the child with a focus on their unique abilities and challenges. A specialist (often a psychologist, pediatrician or developmental pediatrician) performs the assessment by asking the parents questions and observing and interacting with the child. Following this initial intake or screening, the specialist will determine if it is necessary to solicit the help of other ASD specialists. Regardless, an ASD specialist will then formulate a plan for treatment that will include methods of treatment and desired goals or milestones of treatment.
Early intervention for autism may use several different therapies, but among the most popular—and most effective—is applied behavior analysis (ABA). During the course of ABA therapy, specialists will observe how an individual behaves in real-life situations. Then, they will intervene when appropriate to improve socially significant functions. Interventions help to:
- Encourage positive behaviors
- Discourage negative behaviors
- Maintain appropriate behaviors (i.e., self-control)
- Transfer behaviors from one scenario to another
- Restrict conditions for negative behaviors
Early intervention programs focus on developing the types of skills typically associated with the first two or three years of life, such as physical control, cognitive ability, social skills, emotional regulation, and communication.
When you suspect that your child needs help, you can turn to us. At Ascend Autism, we tailor our autism early intervention program to each child’s age and situation. From the home to the classroom and beyond, our goal is to ensure your child’s success—and your peace of mind. For more information, please call us at 877.323.8668.