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Early intervention for toddlers with autism refers to the time at which therapeutic services begin to treat the symptoms of autism. There are a variety of services that a child with autism may require. These services can include any or all of the following:
- Speech Therapy
- Occupational Therapy
- Behavioral Management
- Nutritional Therapy
- Educational Strategies
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy
Deciding which types of therapies or strategies to use for early intervention is something that needs to be decided by you, as the caregiver or parent of a child with autism. A good place to start exploring all of the early intervention options is by talking to your pediatrician.
What is Early Intervention?
Early Intervention is one of the most effective ways to prepare your child with autism for the years ahead. Your child needs to be able to communicate, listen and learn, respond to adults and peers, and behave appropriately in social settings whether on the playground or in some other public setting. It is also important for your child to understand boundaries and positive ways to behave and communicate within your own family unit as well.
The earlier you start intervention services, the greater the chances are for your child to get a good start in school. This is important because creating a positive experience when a child first starts to attend school just may set the tone for the school years ahead. If a child with autism has a negative start at the beginning of their school years, it could hinder them from learning and acclimating to the school environment for an extended period of time.
By starting intervention services as soon as your child is diagnosed, your child will start to learn and adapt to the norms and expectations that they will encounter wherever they go. These skills need to be taught because many of the social norms that we take for granted are very difficult for toddlers with autism. Skills that may not come naturally to a child with autism include introducing yourself to a new friend, sharing, being empathetic, reading facial expressions, appropriate responses and so on.
If your child with autism has social skills deficits, communication deficits, physical deficits, emotional deficits, and/or behavioral deficits it is in the best interest of the child and for your family to address these deficits early. Early intervention can equip a child with autism with the tools and the skills that they will need to learn, be a part of the classroom community, play with peers, socialize and make new friends, control impulses, focus, communicate feelings, share thoughts, and take part in classroom discussions.
Can early intervention cure autism?
Toddlers diagnosed with autism can make significant strides in their behavior, communication, and social/emotional health with early intervention. However, autism is a lifelong diagnosis. Autism doesn’t simply go away- it is managed.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is diagnosed by the patient meeting certain criteria. The DSM-5 (The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th Edition) explains that in order for a child to be diagnosed with an ASD (autism spectrum disorder), they must have persistent deficits in social communication and interaction, restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, and intellectual impairments that may or may not include a language impairment.
Autism is diagnosed by your pediatrician, pediatric neurologist, or/and other specialists who are trained to identify deficits in your child’s development. If you’re unsure if your child might have autism and you’re struggling to find a provider, Circle Care can help! We’ve done the research for you and found providers in the New Jersey area that can meet your needs. Just fill out our diagnostician form, and someone from our team will be in touch soon!
Treating autism is a process. Early intervention is vital to the process because if a child is given the right treatment and guidance as early as possible, they may be able to make enough social, communication, and behavior improvements to be almost indistinguishable from their school-age peers.
This will vary from one child to another depending on the severity of their autism, of course. A child with mild symptoms who is struggling with socially appropriate behaviors may require minimal support. While children with severe deficits in their ability to learn or communicate effectively may benefit from several years of treatment. In either case, early intervention is the best strategy for helping a child with autism to overcome these deficits in social, emotional, communication areas, and in learning socially appropriate behaviors.
Given enough attention, there are toddlers who are diagnosed with autism at an early age who no longer fit all of the criteria for autism at an older age. Does that mean that they were never autistic? Did their autism magically disappear? No, autism does not magically go away. The goal in delivering proper treatment to children with autism is to get them to a point in their lives where they can interact with others, learn independently, live independently when they are older, and communicate effectively. Some of these changes can happen very naturally as a child develops and learns by observing others. Behavior therapy adds to that learning by addressing specific deficits that are hindering their independence and their ability to communicate and learn.
Where can I find early intervention services?
If you suspect that your child has autism, or if your child has recently received a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder there are many options for early intervention services.
The most obvious place to start would be to ask your pediatrician for suggestions or referrals. If working with your pediatrician is not helpful or possible, your next best option is to seek out assistance from your local health department.
Most states have free screening programs for toddlers with developmental concerns. These programs target children that are showing signs of developmental delays between the ages of birth to three.
To acquire Early Intervention Services, qualified professionals will evaluate and assess your child for delays or deficits in their development. Once it has been determined that your child qualifies for services, the frequency and intensity of services is determined with the needs of the child and the family in mind.
Early Intervention Services include whatever specific services are needed to support a child with autism with deficits in areas such as:
- Physical Disabilities
- Hearing and Vision
- Developmental Disorders
- Family Counseling
- Health Services
- Medical Services
- Nursing Care
- Speech and Language Therapy Services
- Psychological Services
- Social Work Services
- Physical and Occupational Therapy Services
- Nutritional Counseling
Families are entitled to many of these services at no cost. For the costs that are not covered at public expense, Medicaid and private insurances can often cover the cost of whatever services are needed. The cost of these services is determined by the family’s income and works on a sliding fee scale.
With increasing awareness and support for ABA services, there are increasingly more and more programs available to help with the cost of ABA therapy. Your state’s department of health is a good resource to start from when seeking services.
If your local department of health does not have resources for early intervention, Autism Speaks is an organization that is dedicated to autism advocacy. This organization is a great place to start when seeking services, information, or funding for services.
Early Intervention With Circle Care Services
Circle Care Services in New Jersey is an ABA agency that serves the needs of children with autism and the needs of their families. Circle Care works with several insurances to provide applied behavior analysis therapy at little to no cost for families in need.
Circle Care Services is staffed with highly qualified professionals that can come alongside you and your child to determine exactly what your child needs for the best possible outcome. Circle Care offers preschool readiness programs, social skills groups, individualized therapy in the home, at school or in a clinical setting.
Whatever your needs are, we can help. Give us a call at Circle Care in New Jersey to set up a consultation and evaluation for applied behavior analysis therapy. Our Board Certified Behavior Analysts will assess your child and develop a specific treatment plan that is designed to meet the needs of your child while meeting the needs of your family as well.
Give your toddler with autism the best start possible. Start them on the right path to learning and growing at the earliest sign of delay. Help your child to reach those developmental milestones and goals that will help them in school, in their community and long into the future when they become adults.