With each passing year, children are getting diagnosed with autism earlier and earlier. Currently children are getting diagnosed as young as 2, which provides these children with an excellent opportunity to participate in early autism intervention services.
What is Early Autism Intervention?
- Programs for young children, ages 0-5 that have some type of delay in their development. These delays can include speech, physical, social and/or emotional, and cognitive.
- Early intervention services can be done in the home, school, clinic, or a combination of all 3 settings.
- Each state is federally mandated to provide early intervention services to all children ages 0-3 who qualify. Children 3 and older have other options to receive services that would be covered through insurance.
- Early intervention providers can include, Speech Language Pathologists (SLP), Occupational Therapists (OT), Physical Therapists (PT), Developmental Therapists (DV), Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA), and Behavior Therapists (BT).
Why is Early Autism Intervention so Important?
- The first 5 years of child’s life are very important years for developmental growth.
- The earlier therapy begins, the better the long-term outcome will be. This is especially true for children with autism, as learning functional skill early will help them make greater gains throughout their lifetime.
- There are years of research showing the effectiveness of early intervention with children with autism and other developmental disabilities.
- Early intervention focuses on your child’s strengths and builds on these strengths to teach new skill sets.
- Early intervention uses a team-based, multidisciplinary approach which will allows your child to get individualized therapy across all developmental domains.
- When negative behaviors are addressed early, they are easier to decrease due to the lack of a long learning history. Also, many negative behaviors occur because children with autism lack functional communication skills. Once a child is able to effectively request their wants and needs, many behaviors will start to decrease.
- Early intervention will address several different important skills during therapy including:
- Parents will learn the necessary strategies to use with their child early on, so they can carry over interventions when therapy is not taking place. This will further promote skill development and overall independence.
How to Begin Early Autism Intervention Services
- The first step is to have your child evaluated. If your child is ages 0-3 you can contact a local early intervention provider to begin the evaluation process. Once the evaluation is complete, they will determine which therapies your child qualifies for, and services can begin.
- Even if your child qualifies for early intervention services through the state, it is recommended for your child to also begin Applied Behavior Analysis services (ABA). ABA is an evidence-based treatment approach that is considered the most effective approach for individuals with autism. Once you contact a local ABA agency a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) will evaluate your child and then create an individualized treatment plan for your child. It is also best if your ABA provider and Early Intervention providers are in frequent contact to ensure all therapists are working toward the same goals.
- Even if you are even slightly concerned your child may have autism or any other type of developmental delay, it is better to be safe and get an evaluation rather than wait and see if the symptoms improve. Waiting can take away valuable therapy time from your child.