If you’re the parent of a child with autism, then you know that early intervention is key. The earlier your child starts receiving treatment, the better their chances are of making significant progress. But what exactly is early intervention and why is it so important? Here we’ll discuss the basics of early intervention for autism and why it’s such an essential step in your child’s development.
How Early Can You Diagnose Autism?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be difficult to diagnose because it manifests differently in every child. Some children with ASD show signs of developmental delays as early as 12 to 18 months old or earlier, with others not showing any signs until they are much older. In general, the earlier ASD is diagnosed, the better the outcome is for the child.
Some early signs of autism include a lack of eye contact, not responding to their name being called, and not pointing to show interest. Additionally, children with autism may have difficulty understanding or using gestures, such as waving hello or goodbye. They may also repeat words or phrases obsessively, and in some cases, may be resistant to change in routines.
A recent study has shed new light on children with autism suggesting that diagnosing the disorder may be more complex than previously thought. The study examined over 1,200 toddlers who had at least two developmental evaluations between the ages of 12 and 36 months. The results showed that less than 2% of the children who were initially thought to have autism were later found to have normal development. On the other hand, 24% of the children who were initially thought not to have autism were later diagnosed with it. The study provides valuable insight into how early signs of autism are not always initially clear.
Benefits of an Early Autism Diagnosis
Time and time again, studies have shown that the early diagnosis and intervention of autism, occurring around or near preschool age, is more likely to have major long-term positive effects on symptoms and the development of later skills. Unfortunately, most children with ASD are not diagnosed until they are much older, either due to parents’ inability to identify symptoms or lack of access to care, and miss out on an opportune time for intervention. The sooner a child can start behavioral therapy, the more likely they are to make progress in regards to their skills later on in life.
ABA Therapy for Children
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is a treatment that breaks down tasks into small, manageable steps and teaches children with autism new skills by reinforcing desired behavior. Unique to each child’s needs, ABA is helpful for children with developmental problems, no matter what their cause. There is no downside to behavioral therapy, even if the child ultimately is found to have a different problem — or may have no problem at all.
Other treatments, such as speech therapy and occupational therapy are also helpful for children with other developmental problems such as those with a language disability or simply a late bloomer. Safe and effective, these treatments can help children develop new skills, improve their overall functioning, and reach their full potential.
How Maxim Can Help
Early diagnosis and treatment of ASD can make a big difference in your child’s life. Behavioral therapy is an important treatment for many children with autism. The sooner a child can start therapy, the more likely they are to make progress in regards to their skills later on in life. If you are concerned that your child might have ASD, it is important to talk to your pediatrician. They will be able to assess your child’s development and refer you to a specialist if necessary.
Maxim provides ABA therapy to children with autism and other developmental disabilities through home-based, school, or center-based services. For more information on Maxim’s behavioral services, visit our Autism Care page here.
Early Signs of Autism. (n.d). National Autism Center at May Institute.
Early Intervention Is Key To Educating Children With Autism [Press Release]. (2001, June 13). Nationalacademies.org.
Lord, C., & McGee, J. P. (2001). National Research Council, Committee on Educational Interventions for Children with Autism. Educating Children With Autism. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Pierce, K. et al. Evaluation of the Diagnostic Stability of the Early Autism Spectrum Disorder Phenotype in the General Population Starting at 12 Months. JAMA Pediatr. 2019;173(6):578–587. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.0624
What is “Early Intervention”? (n.d.). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.