Early Intervention for Autism: What You Need to Know

Early Intervention for Autism: What You Need to Know

September 2, 2020
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It can be overwhelming, even daunting to loving parents who are faced with the decision whether to avail of early intervention programs or not for their child. There must be a hundred questions, worries that flash inside any parent’s mind. Questions like: What should I expect? Will my child be okay? Will it be the best course of action? Will my child be better?

These are some of the common questions and concerns that About Play hopes to answer…

There have been many therapies that have evolved over the years that were created to better the lives of children with autism. One of these treatments within early intervention is Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI)  for autism which has shown to have major long-term positive outcomes on symptoms, and then much later, a significant improvement in skills. EIBI is a treatment based on the principles of applied behavior analysis and gives a child with a diagnosis of autism the best chance to progress with developmental skills and reach his/her full potential. Intervention for autism can start as early as 18 months and typically done at a high rate of frequency of 20 or more hours per week.

“Early Intervention as early as 18 months?...But why?”

Early intervention for autism is suggested at or just before preschool age and for a very good reason. In the first 3 years, a young child’s brain is still developing and is malleable. It can be molded, shaped, taught. It is at this stage that the brain is more “plastic”. Scientists call this neuroplasticity and it is this plasticity that allows early intervention to have a better chance of success. Subsequently, early intervention and EIBI not only influence a young child’s progress, but both also have a huge impact on interrupting problematic behavior before it becomes a habit. Individualized treatment also prepares the child for improved social interactions when they are old enough for school. The sooner the child has the help and supports the greater chance for progress. Some outcomes include a higher IQ, improved motor skills and functional language abilities compared to children who did not receive early intervention.

What Does Early Intervention Aim to Achieve?

Autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental condition characterized by diminished verbal communication abilities, repetitive behaviors, and impaired social interactions. Autism can be detected and accurately diagnosed in a child as young  as 18 months. As such, the goal of early intervention is to help the child improve basic skills that are functional to everyday life and routines.

These basic skills include:

  • Physical skills
  • Communication skills
  • Cognitive or Thinking skills
  • Social-Emotional skills
  • Adaptive skills

 

Early intervention for autism capitalizes on the potential learning capabilities of a very young child’s brain. Early intervention services limit the detrimental effects of autism so that a child can lead a more functional and productive life.

What Will My Child Do During Therapy?

The focus of ABA programs are functional skills that can be generalized and maintained through everyday activities and routines. EIBI and behavioral treatment will be done by behavioral specialists such as Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), Registered Behavior Technician (RBT), and parents/caregivers. The BCBA will identify deficits in the child’s skills and break down those skills into smaller teachable steps. These smaller, teachable steps allow the child more success in achieving skills. The RBT and the family/caregivers will be trained on how to implement the behavioral techniques. Guidance and use of prompts will be phased out as the child masters and generalizes skills to other environments. Children who receive early intervention care will benefit greatly from reducing the severity of symptoms and behavioral developmental issues.

The programs in early intervention for autism are wide in scope. Some of the key programs that a child may qualify for include:

1) Speech Therapy

2) Occupational Therapy

3) Physical Therapy

4) Nutrition Services

5) Audiology

6) Applied Behavior Analysis/Early Intensive Behavioral Therapy

 

Early intervention services play a pivotal role in bridging a stronger connection between the child and his/her parents. Due to the younger age that autism is being diagnosed, early intervention services should be an area of focus especially in the area of parent training programs which could potentially decrease the debilitating effects of autism and lead to improved functional skills for children. Whatever program is offered, the best early interventions are designed to provide children with a safe, stimulating atmosphere for learning and addressing the difficulties they face. Early intervention services positively shape a young child’s life and minimize potential learning delays by supporting parents and families.