The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Importance of Early Intervention for Children with Autism
It is widely known that our formative years are some of our most important ones developmentally. A child’s early years are when he or she learns basic cognitive functions as well as speech, physical hand-eye coordination and comprehension.
Did you know that today 1 in 88 children are identified with an autism spectrum disorder? Known simply as ASD, this group of developmental frailties can cause major behavioral, social and communication challenges. Since Autism occurs on a spectrum of symptoms, each person with the disorder will be impacted differently. This is why it is vital to practice early intervention for children with autism.
Early intervention isn’t a one size fits all cure, but studies show that a combination of applied behavioral analysis, which is the use of psychology training techniques to teach behaviors and skills, as well as ongoing, parent-mediated interventions can help to reduce some of the most debilitating autism symptoms. Skills including walking and social interaction are learned from birth to the age of three, so these early forms of treatment can truly alleviate years of pain and suffering down the road. Impressively, data has shown that high-quality early interventions, make enough impact that many children with ASD no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for autism.
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The Importance of Early Intervention for Children with Autism
WHAT IS AUTISM?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges
Because ASD occur on a spectrum, ASD impact each person differently and can range from mild to severe
- Difficulty initiating social interactions
- Atypical or unsuccessful response to social overtures of others
- May appear to have deceased interest in social interactions
- Inflexibility of behavior
- Difficulty switching activities
- Problems of organization and planning hamper independence
Requiring Substantial Support
- Marked deficits in verbal and nonverbal social communication skills
- Social impairments even with support
- Limited initiation of social interactions
- Reduced/abnormal responses to social overtures from others
- Has noticeable odd non-verbal communication
- Inflexibility of behavior
- Limited to special interests
- Distress/difficulty changing focus
Requiring Very Substantial Support
- Severe deficits in verbal and nonverbal social communication skills
- Very limited initiation of social interactions
- Minimal response to social overtures from others
- Makes unusual approaches to meet needs, and responds only to very direct social approaches
- Inflexibility of behavior, extreme difficulty coping with change
- Repetitive behaviors markedly interfere with functioning in all spheres
- Great distress/difficulty changing focus or attention
HOW PREVALENT IS AUTISM?
1 in 88 children has been identified with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (According to the CDC)
1 in 6 children in the U.S. had a disability ranging from speech and language impairments to serious developmental disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and autism (During 2006-2008)
5x more common among boys
1 in 54
1 in 252 than among girls
18% of children who are diagnosed with Autism were diagnoses before the age of three
ASD commonly occurs with other developmental, psychiatric, neurologic, chromosomal, and genetic diagnoses
10% Co-occurence of one or more psychiatric diagnoses with ASD
83% Co-occurence of one or more non-ASD developmental diagnoses with ASD
ASDs occur in all racial, ethnic, and socio-economic groups
WHY IS EARLY INTERVENTION IMPORTANT?
- Important skills like walking, communication, and social interaction are learned from birth to three years old
- Delays can have significant impact on development and can cause years of further unnecessary training
Early Intervention is Proven Effective
- of the children who weren’t speaking in two-word phrases at age 4
- 70% reached the milestone by age 8 as a result of early intervention
- High-quality early interventions make enough impact that some children with ASDs no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for autism
Reduces Cost in the Long-Term
- $3,569/mo.* Child on high-quality ESDM program
- $5,033/mo. Child not on ESDM program
*Computed based on four years following a two-year intensive high-quality behavioral intervention program
— In the U.S. approximately $137 billion is spent each year related to ASD
WHAT EARLY INTERVENTION OPTIONS ARE THERE?
Individuals with Disabilities Act
Children under the age of three who are at risk of having developmental delays may be eligible for state-provided services and evaluation
Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)
ESDM uses techniques from applied behavioral analysis (ABA) for early intervention with toddlers
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)
ABA uses behavioral psychology and training techniques to teach skills or behaviors
- It can be personalized
- It can be measured
Data can be collected and changes in behavior can be analyzed to demonstrate whether the ABA program has been effective
A review of multiple studies on parent-mediated interventions found that the evidence for positive change in patterns of parent-child interaction was strong
Quality is Important
A recent Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders study found that the quality of teaching program was more important than the specific program used
PICK THE RIGHT PROGRAM
Because ASDs vary between the children, it is important to choose a program that works best. Even in a high-quality program, not every child will experience the same benefits or any benefit.
UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI
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