It’s never too soon to start accessing early intervention services for a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or a child with symptoms of ASD. Children as young as 2 can benefit from the therapeutic services offered through early intervention and education programs. If your child has an ASD diagnosis or symptoms of ASD, they may benefit from early intervention therapies.
This page will help you learn about what early intervention and education for autism are, how these services can affect the development of people with ASD, and how you can prepare yourself to access these services.
What Is Early Intervention and Education for Autism?
Early intervention and education for autism means providing therapeutic services for children younger than preschool age, typically for children 2 to 3 years old. At this age, the brains of young children develop rapidly and are quick to learn new skills and behaviors that will lay the foundation for their development for the rest of their lives. Early intervention specialists understand the brain development of children at this age and provide support services to help your child gain healthy social, emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and even physical skills.
How Can Early Intervention Affect the Development of an Autistic person?
Using therapeutic techniques, early intervention services support the growth and development of children with ASD. Here are some key goals of early intervention for children with ASD:
- Social skills: Many children with ASD struggle to learn appropriate social behaviors, such as how to interact with their caregivers and peers. Early intervention treatments help children with ASD gain social skills like sharing, taking turns, and engaging in play with parents or other children.
- Emotional skills: It’s important for young children to develop emotional regulation skills, such as learning to soothe themselves in response to frustrations, worries, or feelings of being overwhelmed. Young children with ASD may need more support to help them learn to identify their feelings and respond to them appropriately.
- Cognitive abilities: Cognition refers to your child’s ability to think, plan, and problem-solve. Early intervention therapies can help children with ASD improve their cognitive abilities, which are important for fostering independent thinking and self-esteem.
- Behavioral skills: Children with ASD may have a harder time learning expected behaviors. For example, early intervention therapies can help children learn to make eye contact during conversations.
- Physical ability: It’s common for children with ASD to experience difficulties in their motor development. Early intervention therapy can improve their fine and gross motor skills, such as helping them develop the muscles in their hands, or improve their coordination.
- Communication skills: Developing communication skills is important for helping children with ASD express their needs to their caregivers. These children can benefit from services that encourage verbal and non-verbal communication skills, which can include teaching low or non-verbal children to use sign language to express their needs.
The ultimate goal of early intervention and education for autism is to help children gain a strong foundation that supports their growth and development for the rest of their lives. Our early intervention specialists work with children and their families to understand their unique needs and challenges. Here are a few examples of how access to early intervention treatments can benefit your child:
- Better social relationships.
- Improved self-esteem.
- Easier transition to school.
- Higher quality of life.
How Can Parents Educate and Prepare Themselves?
As a parent, you want to give your child the best opportunity to thrive. Educating yourself about ASD, its early symptoms, and what services can best support the needs of your little one can help you get the care you need for your child. If you think your child may benefit from early intervention services, here are some things to consider:
Know Who’s Eligible for Services
Children qualify for early intervention services after undergoing a professional assessment. A child who has a developmental delay or diagnosed disability becomes eligible to receive early intervention treatments.
While some children can qualify for services from birth due to the nature of their disability, symptoms of ASD typically don’t appear in children before 18 months. Additionally, the symptoms of ASD can vary significantly from one child to another, so it can take time to identify symptoms and receive a formal diagnosis. For these reasons, it’s important to educate yourself about the early signs of ASD and have your child screened at 18 and 24 months by your pediatrician or another qualified provider.
Understand the Assessment Process
Getting a formal assessment from a qualified provider, like your pediatrician or one of our professionals at Arlington Heights, is the best way to identify autism symptoms in your child. It’s important to note that your child can receive early intervention services even before they have a formal autism diagnosis.
During the evaluation, the provider will ask you questions about your observations of the child’s behaviors, and they will use a clinical assessment tool to evaluate your child’s ability to perform some developmentally appropriate tasks. If the results indicate possible ASD, your child can begin early intervention treatments. Be aware that the initial screening isn’t a diagnostic evaluation. If the screening indicates your child may have ASD symptoms, they will then get a full diagnostic evaluation.
The earlier your child accesses intervention and education services, the more positive outcomes they’re likely to experience. Starting early means making the most of your child’s early brain development, which is the period during which your child’s brain is most adaptable to learning new skills and behaviors.
If you have concerns about your child’s development, don’t wait to have them tested. Even without a full diagnosis, your child can benefit from early intervention services that support any areas of delay they may have.
Be Aware of Early Autism Symptoms
As a parent, being aware of the early signs of autism can help you identify symptoms in your child. Here are some early symptoms to watch for:
- Using an unusual tone when talking or babbling.
- Having very strong or very restricted reactions to sensory experiences.
- Displaying an unusual style of play.
- Showing little or no interest in engaging with others.
- Displaying a limited range of facial expressions.
- Avoiding eye contact.
- Being overly fussy or difficult to soothe.
Schedule an Assessment Today
At NeuroHealth Arlington Heights, we’re committed to the health, safety, and privacy of our clients. If you have questions or want to learn more about our evaluation and intervention services, contact our team today. Our professionals are highly qualified to offer comprehensive autism treatment to help your child thrive.