As scientists conduct more research and increase their knowledge about the complex nature of ASD, study after study confirms the importance of early intervention for autism. Research shows that with intense early intervention, children with autism experience more long-term positive outcomes, including gains in IQ, more developed communication skills, and better social interactions. Children as young as 18 months can be diagnosed with autism, and early intervention therapies can begin at the same age.
If you are considering early intervention for your child, aim for 25-40 hours of intense intervention per week. While this may sound overwhelming, this level of intervention has been demonstrated to be most effective for children with autism. Of course, you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) provide all of these hours yourself. Effective intervention can be provided by ABA therapists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, Special Education teachers, parents, and other family members and service providers.
Be sure that, during the course of intervention, providers address your child’s engagement, social skills, spontaneous play, communication, independence, and self-coping skills, such as proactive approaches to problem behaviors. Ideally, intervention should take place throughout the day, in a variety of settings and with a variety of people, so your child can practice different kinds of interaction.
Why Early Intervention is Effective
Researchers believe that early intervention is effective for the same reason that infants and young children learn and develop new skills so quickly. When we’re young, our brains are more malleable—scientists refer to this phenomenon as neural plasticity, or the ability to learn new skills quickly. This isn’t to say that, if your child is older, he or she can’t develop life skills. Every brain is capable of learning at every age.
The younger your child is, the more quickly your efforts will pay off, however, which is why we recommend that parents trust their instincts if they sense that something is off, beginning interventions, such as speech and language therapy, Sensory modulation and occupational therapy as soon as possible. Too often, when parents start to voice their concerns about developmental delays, trusted family members and other loved ones calm them by saying “it’s just a phase” or “he’ll grow out of it.” Unfortunately, this “wait and see” approach can deprive your child of much needed early care and support, so go with your gut and begin seeking information and assistance right away.
The Benefits of Early Intervention
In addition to the fact that children who receive early intervention have a much greater likelihood of generally positive outcomes, beginning treatments and therapies for autism at a young age have a number of specific benefits. Early intervention makes it more likely that your child will be able to succeed in school, live independently, secure some form of employment, and develop true friendships.
Early intervention is also beneficial for the entire family, as it gives parents and siblings a better chance of developing a meaningful, lifelong family bond. The strain of providing care for a child with autism can put stress on your marriage and your friendships. By preparing for the road ahead and intervening early, you give yourself the chance to develop a routine with your child that will help you through the rough times.
Affording Early Intervention for Your Child
Early intervention can definitely be costly, but don’t let this deter you from getting help for your child—there are also free programs and funding resources available to help you cover the expense. Your first search should be for your state’s Department of Developmental Disabilities (DDD). While the structure and the available services vary from state to state, every state has funds available to help families afford ABA therapy, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, and other treatments. For instance, here are some of the services available in South Carolina, our home state.
You should also get in touch with your insurance as soon as you have a diagnosis. Many providers cover early intervention for autism.
The admissions counselors at Springbrook are insurance experts. If you are interested in Springbrook, we offer interventions for children as young as five[MB1] -years-old, and we can help you figure out how to meet the requirements for your insurance provider. Contact us for a confidential consultation[MB2] .