Autism is a complex disorder of brain development which can affect cognitive abilities as well as language, social, and motor skills. The prevalence of autism and autism spectrum disorders has risen to one in every eighty-eight American children, and almost one in fifty-eight boys. The diagnosis of autism has increased dramatically in the last decade. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown. The best weapon against autism is early identification and intervention.
The Autism Society of America (ASA) recommends an intervention that addresses deficit areas, focuses on long term outcomes, and considers the development of each child. They also recommend effective and systematic instructional approaches with family involvement, in-home training, and family support.
What is Early Intervention?
If you are concerned, ACT EARLY. Share your concerns with your doctor. Your child's doctor can help determine whether your child is at risk for a developmental delay or disability and would benefit from early intervention.
Early intervention is defined as services delivered to children from birth to age three, Research shows that early intervention has a dramatic impact on reducing the symptoms of autism spectrum disorders. The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) recommends that "treatment start when autism is suspected rather than waiting for a formal diagnosis."
What kind of early intervention?
In clinical terms, there are a few “absolute indicators,” often referred to as “red flags,” that indicate that a child should be evaluated. For a parent, these are the “red flags” that your child should be screened to ensure that he/she is on the right developmental path.
If your baby shows two or more of these signs, please ask your pediatric healthcare provider for an immediate evaluation.
Impairment in Social Interaction:
Lack of appropriate eye gaze
Lack of warm, joyful expressions
Lack of sharing interest or enjoyment
Lack of response to name
Impairment in Communication:
Lack of showing gestures
Lack of coordination of nonverbal communication
(little variation in pitch, odd intonation, irregular rhythm, unusual voice quality)
Repetitive Behaviors & Restricted Interests:
Repetitive movements with objects
Repetitive movements or posturing of body, arms, hands, or fingers
Autism Spectrum Disorders
*Wetherby, A., Woods, J., Allen, L., Cleary, J., Dickinson, H., & Lord, C. (2004). Early indicators of autism spectrum disorders in the second year of life. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 34, 473-493. Based on research at the Florida State University FIRST WORDS® Project.
It is commonly understood that early intervention is important, however if your child did not receive the intervention that you had hoped early in their development or your child is 8, 12, 18, or an adult; it is important to know that it is never too late to make a difference. There are many cutting-edge therapies that have good reports of changes in communication skills, social skills, and behavior.