The Importance of Early Intervention, and the Risks of Waiting on Treatment
Early Intervention is a program meant to help very young children who show a developmental delay, or may be at risk for autism. It’s extremely valuable. But it’s also not talked about much.
Why Early Intervention Doesn’t Come Up Often
Some of our parents are just nervous when the subject of Early Intervention comes up. It’s a scary prospect to think your infant or toddler might have a developmental disability!
There’s also a common perception of, “Oh, this behavior is normal, he/she will grow out of it.” Unfortunately, that’s not the case. And the longer parents wait before getting a diagnosis, the fewer chances their child has to improve their behavior.
This issue of “Thrive” will talk about Early Intervention’s value to children, when begun early & followed through.
Overall Benefits of Early Intervention
Early Intervention is, like its name suggests, an “intervention” therapy – its goal is to focus on building skills the child will use throughout their lives.
When started early and practiced often, a good early intervention program has at least 4 benefits:
- Gives your child direction for learning new skills, improving their maladaptive behaviors, and remediating areas of weakness.
- Provides you (the parent) with information to help you better understand your child’s behavior and needs.
- Offers resources, support, and training that enable you to work and play with your child more effectively.
- Improves your child’s outcomes in life.
In 2011, the National Early Intervention Longitudinal Study (NEILS) found that infants & toddlers who participated in Part C (a U.S. early intervention program) had:
- Better motor skills
- Higher cognitive growth
- Lower negative impacts of their disabilities
- Better social relationships
- Stronger thinking abilities
- A more active approach to meeting their needs
Than children who did not participate.
How Early Intervention Benefits Your Child’s Education
It’s easy to see how improving a child’s social and cognitive skills helps them do better in school.
By working with your child as early as possible, Early Intervention gives them the best possible chance with their education.
While Early Intervention takes place before they go to school, the behaviors learned carry over into the school environment.
- They already know something about learning. Great preparation for the lessons.
- Early Intervention sets the child on a path to inclusion in a regular classroom (or as natural a learning environment as possible).
- Early Intervention reduces the need for more special education resources in the school environment. Making the experience more positive for everyone.
NEILS also found that 46% of Early Intervention kids who were at risk of needing special education at kindergarten age…didn’t need special education afterward!
Potential Risks if Early Intervention is Not Used
Early attention to improving the core behavioral symptoms of autism will give your child – and the rest of the family – several important benefits you won’t gain if you take a wait-and-see approach.
When talking about early intervention’s benefits, the Autism Society of America said:
“Comments such as, ‘He/she is too young for such intense therapy’ or ‘Let’s give him/her time to develop on his/her own’ should never be accepted, and intervention should never be postponed.”
Why is waiting a risk? Because you lose out on two things: Practice Time, and Cognitive Development.
Your child’s brain grows more during the first 3 years than at any other time in their lives. If they have ASD or another development delay, this is the period in which the overall condition can improve the most.
It’s also the period where the most basic behaviors are practiced. Eating, sleeping, motor skills, etc. Early Intervention adds basic mental & physical activities to the child’s practicing. Without it, your child doesn’t get the biggest opportunity to shape their future that they have.
Lack of Early Treatment vs. Early Intervention’s Advantages
So we have a whole list of early intervention benefits, as well as notable risks to children with no treatment. Let’s make a list.
|LACK OF EARLY TREATMENT
||EARLY INTERVENTION ADVANTAGES|
|No practice of basic behavioral skills||Practiced basic behavioral skills|
|Cognitive development occurs with autism/developmental delay not addressed||Cognitive development guided to maximize improvement of autism-affected behaviors|
|May need special education into adulthood||May not need special education at all!|
|Limited or no social skills||Developed social skills|
|Lower thinking potential; child may not learn how to take care of themselves||Stronger thinking skills; child is better suited to taking care of themselves|
|Child grows with areas of weakness in their physical skills or behaviors||Child “builds up” areas of weakness until they are as capable as can be|
Any Child Younger than 3 with a Developmental Disability Can Benefit from Early Intervention
It’s very hard to look at an infant and think of them as anything other than perfect. Instead, think about making a perfect future for them. With Early Intervention programs, we’re all trying to give that to them.
If you have questions about the Early Intervention process, please visit our Early Intervention Services page, or talk with your A is for Apple supervisor.
See you next month!
Santa Cruz Harbor Walk for a Fun Day in the Sun, August 14
On Sunday, August 14 at 10:30 a.m., join Autism Fun Bay Area for a summertime walk in Santa Cruz!
The event starts at 1506 Broadway in Santa Cruz. Everyone walks down the Arana Gulch Trail, heading to Seabright Beach. From there, you can take a Water Taxi back, or enjoy the beach a while.
It’s an open-schedule event where families can gather, have fun, and relax in the sun.
Everyone is free and welcome to attend! Please bring sunscreen, water, and comfy shoes. Dogs on leash are fine.
- When: August 14, 10:30 a.m.
- Where: 1506 Broadway, Santa Cruz (Google Map)
- To RSVP, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about the area, including directions, at AutismFunBayArea.org.
Have you heard of the Neurodiverse Workforce movement?
It’s a loose collection of individuals who each work toward workplaces which include people with developmental delays like ASD.
We talked about this a little bit in our April 2016 review of “The Autism Job Club.” Since then, the idea continues to grow. Several books have come out to argue for a neurodiverse workforce. “The Autism Job Club” is one such book; “NeuroTribes” is another.
Professional efforts have come about as well. In May, PBS reported on a former banker named Lynne Wines, who’s putting together a program to encourage hiring of more neurodiverse employees in the workforce. His program helps train & encourage businesses to see the value in hiring them.
“Almost 50 percent of people on the Asperger’s and autistic spectrum, which is considered autism today, have average to above average IQs. And many of them have graduate degrees, and it’s a matter of being able to train the employers to understand that they may not interview the same as you and I would interview, they may not take a written test the same, and they may not behave in certain social circumstances, the way that we would.
But that doesn’t make them not valuable employees. And so our focus is really to educate employers.”
SFGate.com published a similar piece in June, titled, “Neurodiversity in the High-Tech Workforce.” From the article:
“Our goal is to raise public awareness of neurodiversity and what it means to employees and employers in the workforce,” said Stu (Shader from Microsoft), who discovered he had dyslexia when he was in his mid-forties.”
These are just two of the people working to include people with ASD and other developmental disabilities in the workplace of the future. We salute their efforts and want to spread the word!
Making a Sensory Object
A Sensory Object comes in handy when your child is agitated or confused. Sensory Objects are a great way to keep children calm. They can even help your child learn.
Do you have a Sensory Object? If not, it’s easy to make one!
Here are some links with instructions.
Pinterest has many more Sensory Object ideas too!
All you need are some common household items (like bottles, paper, paint, etc.) and a little time. For example, the Color Wheel only needs a foam board, paint, and clothespins. You paint the foam board in a rainbow of colors, paint the clothespins in matching colors, and write the names of those colors on the clothespin and foam board.
Now your child has a great practice tool for learning their colors!
Have you made a sensory object for your child? Please join us on our Facebook Page and share photos!
Ask A is for Apple
Digital Tools for Learning: Letter School
“Dear A is for Apple,
What are some apps we could use to teach our child the alphabet?”
There are quite a few apps available for learning letters and numbers. One we’ve used is called Letter School.
Letter School is a game-based app that helps kids learn counting, writing, and phonics. It follows a four-part teaching structure, with lots of fun bells and whistles.
These are the 4 learning levels:
- Intro–discover the shape, name and sound of the alphabet and basic numbers
- Tap–learn where to start to write the letters and numbers and finish by tapping the dots
- Trace—learn the letter trajectory by tracing it
- Write—test your knowledge by writing the ABCs and numbers from memory
Letter School costs $4.99, and is available on iPad/iPhone and Android. Try it out!
Letter School App Website: LetterSchool.com
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