Importance of early intervention for Autism
Almost one in 54 children have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The number of cases has been tripling ever since, thanks to early detection and assessment. On average, these children will receive a diagnosis at around age 6. ASD can be diagnosed in children by 2 years of age. Once a child is diagnosed with ASD, an early intervention must be started. Early interventions typically commence around as early as 2-3 years of age.
What is Early Intervention?
Early intervention is any specialized treatment or therapy that commences during or at preschool age. This includes birth to three years of age. At this age, the brain is highly plastic in nature. This means that the brain has a large potential to learn in comparison to when the child is older. Due to this reason, the earlier the treatment starts, the better the prognosis. It gives an impressive start to your child’s development. The changes as a result of early intervention will lead to a better quality of life.
Early intervention programs often include:
- Family Training
- Speech Therapy
- Physical Therapy
- Occupational Therapy
How early should I screen my child?
Your child may exhibit signs of ASD as early as 6 months. The signs of ASD are most prominently apparent between 12-18 months. If your child shows any signs of ASD, consult with your child’s doctor. The guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend screening for all 18- and 24-month-old children for ASD and other developmental disorders.
Benefits of Early Intervention
ASD is a complex disorder. Children with ASD will require various types of intervention as they grow. Research in ASD has time and again strengthened the fact that early intervention increases the chances of a positive outcome.
Here are some of the benefits:
Improves your child’s overall development
When you start early intervention, it gives your child a head start. Your child is given all the interventions and programs that they would need. You intervene at the earliest. And this early intervention helps your child’s overall development.
Improves social skills
One of the main areas of the deficit with ASD is social skill impairment. It is the ability to engage with one another and take each other’s perspectives. Early intervention services help your child improve their social skills by helping your child participate in social activities.
Improves self-regulation and coping skills
Children with ASD often present with difficulties with self-regulation. In addition to that, they tend to have specific interests in activities or behavior patterns. It can be difficult for them to understand a situation, which can then lead to frustration when things don’t go their way or as planned. Early intervention helps them with self-regulation and coping skills which are very important for life.
Improves speech, language, and communication skills
Many children with ASD have speech and language delays. They may have difficulties verbally expressing themselves. A speech therapist addresses these concerns as part of early intervention services to give your child the best support to develop their speech, language, and communication skills.
Improves independent life skills
Independence in performing various activities of daily living is very important for children with ASD. The occupational therapist from the early intervention team teaches your child independent living skills right from the very start. When you start early, your child is ready to be independent and tackle the challenges as they come.
Improves physical health
Physical therapy as part of early intervention services would help your child improve their motor skills and improve strength, posture, and balance. This would help your child improve their physical health.
Strengthens parent-child relationships
Children with ASD process information differently. They are neuro-diverse. Learning about your child’s world can help you, as a parent, to empathize and connect with them. This improves and strengthens the parent-child bond.
Improves your child’s quality of life
We all want the best for our children. Early intervention makes this possible for your child. It helps your child to achieve their full potential. As a result, your child will enjoy a better quality of life.
When children receive the intervention they need at an early age, their skills in all areas of development improve and your child thrives. If you have concerns about your child’s development, it is best to seek professional help through a pediatrician or an Early Intervention team.
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