Early Intervention for Children With ASD: Benefits and Techniques

Early Intervention for Children With ASD: Benefits and Techniques 599 399 bh360

Early Intervention for Children With ASD: Benefits and Techniques

Infant Development & Early Intervention

As a parent, you know your child better than anyone else. If something feels different about your child’s development, do not hesitate to reach out for support. Your instincts about your child and their needs can have a profound impact on their long-term well-being. The benefits of early intervention for autism have become more apparent as access to better diagnostic tools and awareness has grown.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes, one in 36 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with autism. The rise of earlier autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnoses has shown that early intervention can change your child’s developmental path. Early access to treatment and support offers more time to learn and build adaptive rather than maladaptive skills as your child grows up. Yet, many children with ASD still go undiagnosed.

At 360 Behavioral Health, we believe it is never too early to get a general developmental evaluation. Whether your child has ASD or not, an early evaluation can help your child find support that matches their needs. While addressing the unknown is scary, with knowledge comes the power to effect positive change in your child’s life. If your child is missing early milestones, it does not have to be the end of the road.

Despite the challenges your child may encounter, early intervention can help set them up for success. Your dedication to your child’s well-being and parental instincts can help you give your child the future they deserve. Even though fear can drive people away from their instincts, deeper awareness and knowledge can help you overcome those fears for the betterment of your whole family. You can start dismantling your fears of ASD by learning how to recognize when to seek early intervention for your child.

How Early Can Autism Spectrum Disorder Be Diagnosed?

Signs of ASD often start showing between the ages of 12 and 18 months. Although some children may have symptoms earlier than 12 months old, many are not diagnosed with ASD until after the age of three. Despite how early ASD can potentially be detected, a diagnosis is frequently not given until children have reached school age. However, you can advocate for your child by collaborating with their pediatrician to identify potential developmental delays.

Now, you may worry about potential barriers to care, like access to information and support from healthcare providers. As the CDC notes, 85% of children later identified with ASD had developmental concerns noted in their record by age three. Yet, these early records of developmental concern did not result in a developmental evaluation. Only 42% of those children identified with ASD received a developmental evaluation by the age of three.

19% of children received ASD evaluations between the ages of three and four. However, 39% of children did not receive an ASD evaluation until after the age of four. Hearing about some of the barriers to early intervention can sound and feel scary. However, acknowledging those barriers can give you insight into how you can advocate for your child’s specific needs.

Your voice is an important tool to give your child resources for success throughout their childhood. Therefore, increasing your awareness and knowledge of ASD diagnosis timing can help you work effectively with your family pediatrician. Moreover, you can see how delayed diagnosis cuts into the time that could been spent fostering your child’s skills. Now, you can use the knowledge you have gained to better recognize early signs of ASD before foundational milestones happen.

Early Signs of ASD

Some of the early signs of ASD you can look out for in your child include:

  • Difficulty making eye contact
  • Issues with following another person’s gaze or pointed finger to another object
  • Unresponsive to their name
  • Difficulties with nonverbal communication
  • Underdeveloped play skills involving pretend play and imagination
  • Delayed verbal communication
  • Regression
    • Children stop using the social skills they had previously gained
      • Language
      • Play
      • Social skills
    • Typically happens between the ages of one and two
    • Some social behaviors may regress earlier than the age of one
      • Looking at faces
      • Reciprocating smiles

Looking at the early signs of ASD showcases how important early intervention is for development. ASD affects your whole family, but access to resources can have a positive impact on how you navigate those challenges.

The Impact of ASD on Life Skills

ASD is typically characterized by impaired social skills, communication skills, repetitive actions, and behavioral difficulties. Social, communication, and behavior impairments can interfere with your child’s ability to function in different areas of life. The challenges of ASD can make it difficult to interact with others. In addition, ASD can contribute to difficulties functioning in school and work settings.

Listed below are some of the difficulties a child with ASD may experience:

  • Social interaction
    • Verbal and nonverbal communication
      • Understanding and using nonverbal social cues
        • Eye contact
        • Facial expressions
        • Gestures
        • Body language
      • Difficulty expressing feelings in appropriate ways
      • Impairment in understanding others’ feelings
  • Daily living skills
    • Self-care
      • Personal hygiene/grooming
      • Toilet hygiene
      • Bathing/showering
      • Dressing
      • Sleep schedule
      • Health maintenance
        • Planning, setting, and managing appointments
        • Exercise
    • Home management
      • Cleaning
      • Washing clothes
      • House maintenance
        • Changing light bulbs and filters
        • Lawn care
        • Cleaning gutters
        • Checking plumbing
    • Food preparation
      • Cooking
      • Planning meals
      • Purchasing food
      • Understanding nutrition needs
    • Time management
      • Organization
      • Prioritization
      • Planning
      • Setting goals
      • Communication
    • Money management
      • Counting money
      • Budgeting
      • Organizing expenses
      • Problem-solving

When social, communication, and behavioral difficulties of ASD are left unaddressed, it can have a lasting impact on life satisfaction. Through childhood and adulthood, unsupported ASD can make it more difficult to:

  • Establish and maintain relationships
  • Reciprocate social interactions
  • Communicate with others
  • Connect with family members and their community
  • Gain academic skills
  • Form a positive sense of self-worth
  • Establish independence

Difficulties with ASD can sound daunting, but your child can improve and overcome challenges to lead their best life. With support and access to early intervention, treatment can be customized to meet your child’s specific needs. Through individualized support, you can work in collaboration with your pediatrician and clinicians to build a plan of care that fits your child and your family’s life. Now, you may question why more opportunities for early intervention have not been used more to support children with ASD.

There are a variety of factors that can contribute to fewer opportunities for early intervention. A big barrier or factor in finding beneficial support in many sectors of life is awareness and knowledge. For example, you can be aware of diabetes and anxiety but not have detailed information on how they work or can impact your well-being. Therefore, self-education can be a powerful tool for self-advocacy and increased support for your child’s well-being.

Everyone faces obstacles, but those challenges do not have to prevent your child from achieving life goals.

The Power of Knowledge in Early Intervention

Understanding barriers to care for ASD can deepen your awareness of your child’s needs. Moreover, recognizing potential barriers to early intervention can help you build tools to advocate for your child and their future. Building advocacy skills can also teach your child how to engage in self-advocacy as they grow up.

Listed below are some of the potential barriers to care for ASD:

  • Health care services
    • Fewer specialists in urban areas compared to metropolitan areas
      • The impact on services, families, and clinicians
        • Creates a service supply shortage
        • Increased wait time for diagnosis and treatment
        • Fewer opportunities for early intervention
  • Physican Expertise
    • Many primary care physicians lack the specialized knowledge to support individuals with ASD
      • Screenings
      • Diagnostics
      • Make referrals for specialists and ASD services
    • Some primary physicians feel ill-equipped to treat individuals with ASD
      • Insufficient communication with parents and caregivers
  • Parent and Caregiver Familiarity
    • Some families are unaware of the signs and symptoms of ASD
    • Families are unaware of available care services
    • First-time parents are less likely to recognize developmental delays compared to experienced parents
      • Less familiarity with typical developmental milestones
    • Low awareness of ASD and care services impacts particular groups
      • Individuals and families with low socioeconomic status
      • Less education
      • Limited or nonexistent access to healthcare professionals and services
  • Language
    • Barriers in language make it difficult for families to access and navigate the healthcare system
      • Difficulties communicating with physicians
      • Issues interpreting and responding to administrative forms

In addition, barriers to diagnosis and treatment services can be distinctive for certain age groups:

  • Childhood and Adolescence
    • Infants to 17 years old
      • Severity of symptoms
        • Symptoms are diverse and can range from mild to severe
          • More difficulty identifying early signs of developmental delays
          • Mild symptoms of ASD may not be detected until later in life
      • Co-occurring health conditions
        • Individuals with ASD are more likely to have comorbid conditions
        • Overlap in symptoms can lead to complicated, delayed, or misdiagnosis
        • Difficulty integrating different care systems
          • Co-occurring health conditions are typically treated within the healthcare system
          • Developmental disabilities, including ASD, are typically supported through social services and education systems
      • Different expressions of ASD symptoms
        • Females and males typically have different clinical expressions of ASD
        • Males and females are typically assessed for development delays at the same age
          • However, ASD diagnosis for females is often delayed until later in life
  • Transitioning into adulthood
    • 16 to 25 years old
      • Young people transitioning into adulthood are less likely to seek support
        • Poor self-advocacy skills
        • Low awareness of resources and where to seek care
      • Individuals with ASD do not consistently receive healthcare transition services (HTS) to foster a smooth transition from pediatrics to adult care
        • Lack of information sharing leaves families unaware of HTS
          • Outpatient and inpatient visits decrease while emergency services increase
            • Increases with co-occurring conditions
        • Primary physicians do not present adaptive HTS to support different levels of ASD symptom severity
  • Adulthood
    • 18 years old and older
      • Adults with ASD may have difficulties finding support services that address co-occurring conditions
      • Misconceptions about ASD may lead primary physicians to over-attribute behaviors to ASD rather than other conditions
        • Primary physicians may be less likely to recommend key health procedures based on assumptions
          • Reproductive health exams

Although barriers to care may feel overwhelming, understanding those challenges opens the door to better support. Many people experience barriers in life, from school and work to health care and social resources. However, knowing those barriers are there encourages resiliency and dedication to building connections for a brighter future. When you engage in self-advocacy, you increase your child’s ability to advocate for themselves and foster independence throughout their life.

You can start taking steps toward giving yourself and your child tools to build a fulfilling life with early intervention. The long-term benefits of increased awareness and knowledge, coupled with early intervention, can be life-changing for your whole family.

Benefits of Early Intervention for ASD

Early intervention can be a game changer for your child’s development and long-term success. You can take steps to give your child the tools and resources for a life that encourages and builds on their unique strengths. The steps you take to increase your child’s self-esteem, independence, and satisfaction in life can start as early as preschool. Moreover, early intervention is particularly valuable in early life because your child’s brain is still forming.

Since your child’s brain is still forming, their brain is more malleable and able to take in information and adapt to different skills more easily. A more adaptable brain increases the effectiveness of treatment plans that can be changed and molded to fit your child’s needs as they grow up. Therefore, providing support in infancy and early toddlerhood can be an instrumental period for the development and improvement of a variety of skills that can help your child reach their full potential.

Through early intervention, your child can learn thinking, social, emotional, communication, and physical skills for their long-term well-being. The skills your child starts learning in early intervention can be invaluable to improvements in different areas of life like daily living, social behavior, cognition, language, and adaptive behavior skills. In addition, for many children with higher IQ, language, and motor skills, early intervention has led them to no longer meet the criteria for ASD. Thus, early intervention can be a remarkable tool to support you in giving your child the opportunity to live their best life.

Building Skills for Long-Term Support at 360 Behavioral Health

At 360 Behavioral Health, we believe early intervention can lead to better outcomes for your child now and across their life. While a delayed milestone does not necessarily mean your child has ASD, addressing delays can make a big difference in your child’s life. ASD is truly a spectrum. Access to comprehensive support early on gives your child the opportunity to engage in individualized treatment that meets their specific needs as they grow and change. Every child deserves access to support that considers their unique needs for their lifelong wellness.

Early intervention is not only a source of support for your child’s well-being but the wellness of the whole family. The challenges of ASD and health care systems can leave you feeling ill-equipped to support and advocate for your child’s best interest. However, early intervention can be a source of empowerment as you deepen your awareness and expand your knowledge of ASD to nurture your child’s growth. You are a vital source of support and advocacy for your child. Your dedication and efforts act as a guide for your child through their life.

Yet, you are not alone in supporting your child’s well-being. Forming a good parent-professional relationship with your child’s pediatrician and clinicians can provide a foundation of support to help you and your child successfully navigate through every stage of their development. We are a source of support you can lean on and work in collaboration with to guide your child and family through the diagnosis and treatment process. While your life may be different from how you envisioned it, leaning into expanding your awareness and knowledge offers opportunities for joy, success, and independence.

Knowing what resources are available to support your child with ASD can feel overwhelming. Low awareness coupled with primary physician misconceptions can make it more difficult to access treatment for your child. However, you can increase your awareness and knowledge of early signs and evaluations to advocate for your child’s success. Through early intervention, your child can improve social, communication, and behavior skills for long-term success. When children are diagnosed earlier in life, interventions can be more effective because their brains are more pliable for learning and growth. At 360 Behavioral Health, we believe that early intervention can give your child the comprehensive and customizable support they need to live their best life. Call us at (833) 227-3454 today.

For more articles, visit our Stay Informed page.

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