Autism and Early Intervention: what does it look like for your child?
So, what is Early Intervention?
Research shows that intensive early intervention is one of the most effective treatments for children with autism and other developmental delays. When you’re looking for Early Intervention services for children, they should be early, intensive, individualised, evidence-based, strengths based and family focused.
Is my child too young to start Early Intervention?
A lot of parents don’t start Early Intervention until their child receives the official diagnosis of a developmental delay. The time leading up to a child getting a diagnosis of autism or developmental delay is typically one of frustration and anguish for many parents. They are concerned and anxious about their child’s delay but waste precious time on waiting lists to see pediatricians and assessment centres to work out what is going on.
The problem with that is it is the ‘early’ in ‘early intervention’ that is so important - which is why it is sensible to start early intervention as soon as you notice your child’s developmental delay, even if you haven’t yet got a diagnosis. Essentially there are two outcomes:
a) Your child will be diagnosed with a developmental delay and already has a head start on their learning.
b) Your child doesn’t have a developmental delay and already has a head start on their learning.
It is a win-win situation!
What could it look like for you?
A good Early Intervention program will be suited to the level your child is on right now and be targeted in a way that it addresses skill deficits. It should involve specific programs directed at teaching communication, play skills, motor skills, social skills and behaviour plans.
Whichever professionals you end up working with should be collecting data and be able to update you on your child’s development and progress over time.
Every child is different. They will learn at a different rate, have different strengths and different areas to work on. The actual ‘therapy’ itself is also going to look very different, depending on your situation.
Look at what best suits your child and family - rather than what another family is doing, because you never know what their situation is.
All families have a different way of managing this. If both parents are working, it may mean hiring a team of professionals to come into their home and help set up a program. Other parents train themselves up and coach other family members - essentially putting together their own ‘therapy team’ guided by a single professional. Sometimes one parent will train themselves to deliver the intervention program! Essentially there is no one way to deliver an early intervention program.
Often after a diagnosis is made, some parents are concerned about how their child’s disability will affect their future, but it is these early childhood years that will be instrumental in setting them up for success in their later years. It is recommended that children receive at least 20 hours of early intervention a week, but remember that it is the quality, not just the quantity. Capitalise on those unstructured learning opportunities day to day and get in as much practice as you can.