Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects 1 in 44 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Early diagnosis of autism can help children receive timely intervention, develop skills, manage sensory experiences, and behaviors, leading to improved quality of life both now and in the future. Early intervention can make a significant difference in the child's life, as research shows that accessing early intervention for autism is more likely to result in positive outcomes in the future than starting intervention later in childhood or adulthood. One of the effective therapies that can help children with ASD is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy.
When Can Autism be Diagnosed?
The earlier the diagnosis, the sooner the child can access intervention, and the greater the opportunity for developing skills and managing sensory experiences and behaviors. While professionals can reliably diagnose autism at the age of two years old and older, they can suspect autism under the age of two. Some children may start regressing in certain areas after the age of two, such as not responding to their name or making eye contact. This is when parents should get them evaluated for ASD as soon as possible.
What Does Early Intervention for Autism Mean?
Early intervention for autism means providing therapeutic services to a child with ASD, typically starting as early as two or three years old. During these early years, the brain is still rapidly developing, which is why early intervention is key to a child's development and functioning later in life. Early intervention can address things like speech and communication, social skills, gross and fine motor skills, self-care, independence, and more. ABA therapy is one of the most used interventions for children with ASD.
Outcomes of Early Intervention in Children with Autism
Early intervention makes it more likely that a child with ASD will experience positive outcomes during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. While ASD doesn't go away, some children who receive early intervention will make so much progress that their autism symptoms and behavioral issues are drastically improved by middle to late childhood. The goal of autism intervention is to help the child live their own unique best life. Early intervention can help children become verbal, learn how to advocate for themselves, make friends, and develop independence and self-care skills.
Evidence for Early Intervention in Autism Treatment
Several studies have shown the effectiveness of early intervention for young children with autism. For example, the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), an intensive early intervention program that combines ABA and developmental psychology, showed positive outcomes for children under two-and-a-half years old. The program uses play-based activities to help children learn new skills and improve their development. The children in the study received 20 hours per week of therapy and parent training to help parents and caregivers learn strategies they can use with their children outside of therapy sessions.
Studies have also shown that children who receive early intervention services have better outcomes in communication, socialization, and behavior than those who do not receive intervention. In fact, some studies have shown that early intervention can improve a child's IQ by an average of 17 points.
Early intervention can also help children with autism develop coping skills and strategies to better manage their symptoms. For example, they may learn how to handle sensory overload or how to communicate their needs effectively. This can lead to improved socialization and better relationships with family and peers.
Early intervention can have long-term benefits. Research has found that children who receive early intervention are more likely to attend regular education classes and have higher rates of employment in adulthood. They are also less likely to require support services later in life.
Importance of Early Intervention in Autism Treatment
In conclusion, early intervention can have a significant impact on the lives of children with autism. It can improve their overall development, help them develop coping skills and strategies, and have long-term benefits that extend into adulthood. Therefore, it is crucial for parents and caregivers to seek early intervention services for children with autism.
ABA is a scientifically validated approach that focuses on breaking down complex skills into smaller, more manageable steps and reinforcing positive behavior with rewards. This approach can be tailored to meet the unique needs of each child. If you are interested in learning more about early intervention for autism, contact us. Our team of experts provides evidence-based interventions that help children with autism reach their full potential.
READ MORE: Developing Social Skills in Children with Autism
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, March 2). Data & statistics on autism spectrum disorder. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved January 24, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html
Dawson, G., Rogers, S., Munson, J., Smith, M., Winter, J., Greenson, J., Donaldson, A., & Varley, J. (2010). Randomized, controlled trial of an intervention for toddlers with autism: the Early Start Denver Model. Pediatrics, 125(1), e17–e23. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2009-0958
Lukas, L. (2022, October 3). Why is early intervention for autism so important? Lighthouse Autism Center. Retrieved January 24, 2023, from https://lighthouseautismcenter.com/blog/infographic-why-is-early-intervention-autism-important/
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2021, April 19). Early intervention for autism. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Retrieved January 24, 2023, from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/autism/conditioninfo/treatments/early-intervention#
Early Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Preschool Autism Communication Trial (PACT)
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders