Every child on the autism spectrum carries a unique set of characteristics that define the challenges they may face, and these often emerge early in life, typically before their third birthday. At this age, your child’s brain is still developing and open to change, more than it will be when they’re older.
This is called neuroplasticity, and it opens a treatment door to minimize the impact of extremes of autistic symptoms and behaviors. The key is early intervention, beginning behavioral and developmental treatments while an autistic child’s brain is most open to change.
Developmental screening is an important part of your child’s well visits with Dr 2 Kids, Smita Tandon, MD. As an autism specialist, Dr. Tandon can spot the signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in time to begin effective early intervention, providing positive impact on your child’s autism experience.
April is World Autism Awareness Month. Today, we look at how early intervention helps your child to thrive through their ASD experience.
How ASD affects a child
While there are likely as many forms of autism as there are children affected by it, the primary signs of the condition include:
- Difficulty with social interaction
- Behavioral tics
- Restrictively focused interests
- Symptoms severe enough to impact one or more areas of their life
The earliest signs of ASD sometimes appear around 12 months of age, though they may not emerge until later. Many health conditions benefit from early discovery and treatment, and autism is no exception. Early intervention therapies can help to modify a wide range of autistic behaviors. Studies show that early intervention programs produce notable improvements in language ability, social interaction, and IQ scores for children diagnosed with ASD at 30 months or younger.
The concept of intervention therapy for ASD dates back to the 1980s. An approach called applied behavioral analysis (ABA) used a series of drills using a reward/discourage model to influence a child away from the extremes of autistic behavior.
Since then, a wide range of refinements to the ABA concept provides a variety of strategies to match the needs of individual children. Some of these strategies include:
- Discrete trial training (DTT): targets specific skills, breaking treatment into small steps
- Early Start Denver Model: helps a child express feelings, speak, and form relationships
- JASPER (joint attention, symbolic play, engagement, and regulation): focuses on communication skills
- Pivotal response treatment (PRT): concentrates on areas of development like motivation and self-management
- Strategies for Teaching based on Autism Research (STAR): merges DTT and PRT into classroom settings
Other therapies include parents in the loop, teaching them to recognize and respond to communication attempts by their child.
One of the challenges regarding early intervention for children with ASD is diagnosis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that only 42% of children with ASD have developmental valuations before they reach the age of three.
Since early intervention requires early diagnosis, working with your pediatrician to establish effective developmental progress tracking from birth is crucial. Dr. Tandon and her team know how important this is to your child, and it’s a key part of their pediatric health monitoring.
You can arrange an assessment by phone or online. Book your appointment now to assure the best outcomes for your child.