Studies have shown that going through an early intervention program can improve outcomes for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
Autism spectrum disorder affects the communication, social, and behavioral skills in roughly 1 in 68 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Autism spectrum disorders can be managed with proper care and treatment, although this can become more challenging when children are diagnosed later in life. An early diagnosis helps ensure that children receive early intervention services that can help reduce or reverse their disorder and support their future development.
Most children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder by three or four years of age, which is too late for early intervention programs. This is mainly due to the mistaken belief that symptoms of autism are not evident in infants. However, some signs do appear at a very early age, such as:
- Visually fixating on an object for long periods of time
- Excessively performing tapping or other repetitive behaviors
- Failing to make eye contact, smile, or respond to their name
- Not making gestures, such as waving
Recognizing these signs and getting an early diagnosis is important in ensuring that children with autism spectrum disorder get the help they need as early as possible. When parents have their children diagnosed as infants or toddlers, they can utilize early intervention programs that could potentially reverse the diagnosis.
Early Intervention Research
A recent study published by researchers at the University of California, Davis, showed that some children with autism who participated in early intervention programs no longer displayed symptoms a few years later. In this study, infants between the ages of seven and 15 months diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder received early intervention therapy for 12 weeks. The infants who underwent therapy before they turned one year old exhibited decreased delays in language and general development. Most of the infants in the study showed fewer symptoms by the time they turned three years old. They also showed no signs of developmental delays in their learning and language skills.
Early Intervention Therapy
Early intervention therapy for children with autism covers a wide range of programs and services. The types of services each child receives depends on the skills they need help with and the severity of their diagnosis. In general, early intervention therapy focuses on the following skill sets:
- Physical – making movements such as walking, reaching for objects, rolling over, and crawling.
- Cognitive – learning to solve problems and developing critical thinking skills.
- Social/Emotional – playing with others and expressing feelings.
- Communication – learning how to talk, listen, and understand others.
- Self-help – basic skills of daily living such as eating and getting dressed.
Early intervention services are available for all children under three years old who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The types of services typically offered include occupational therapy, speech therapy, psychological services, and physical therapy to help them develop skills they need before entering kindergarten. Through these therapies, the goal is to reverse or significantly reduce the child’s challenges so they can begin their education equipped with tools that will help them succeed.
If you have a child who has been diagnosed with autism, please contact Integrity, Inc. at 501-406-0442. We offer community-based services to children in Arkansas, including therapies built into an early intervention program for autism spectrum disorders.