Early Childhood Intervention for Children with Autism
I told him on that day that I never ever wanted to hear the word autism again. 15 months later, I had to prepare for a doctor’s appointment knowing Lucas would most likely get diagnosed. I read Catherine Maurice’s book, Let Me Hear Your Voice. Through that book I learned that kids with autism diagnosed and treated very intensively starting before or at the age of three could get significantly better. They could become indistinguishable from their peers.
When I asked Lucas’ doctor if he could get there, he told me that because Lucas had moderate to severe autism by that point, he was not optimistic. He said that maybe if we would have brought him in earlier his outcome might have been better.
I learned over the past two decades that it’s not such a black and white issue. Back when Lucas was diagnosed with autism, the rate of autism was one in 500 and now it’s at least one in 54. So, the rate has dramatically increased. I’ve transformed from a confused and overwhelmed parent to a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, helping thousands of children directly and hundreds of thousands, if not more, online.
Over the years, some of the kids that I’ve worked with were more mainstream with no support, some went to college, and some have avoided the diagnosis altogether. I learned that it doesn’t matter if it’s autism or not, the same strategies can work – and they work best with very young children at the first signs of a concerning behavior.
My most popular video blog to date is, “Is it Speech Delay or Autism?” with almost half a million views. You may want to check that out to help you see the first signs of delays and that there isn’t very much difference between autism and speech delay.
My goal is to help parents and early intervention providers identify any delay as soon as possible. I have seen signs and symptoms of autism reversed and sometimes eliminated, especially with early childhood interventions. I’ve even seen autism prevented in some cases.
Autism Intervention Strategies
Here are three things you can do today instead of worrying about autism or other delays.
1. Learn the Typical Milestones of Development and the Red Flags for Autism
The CDC has some early warning signs and general milestones you should be looking for. It doesn’t matter if you have a baby, infant, toddler, preschooler, or older child. You can look at the milestones for their age level. Milestones for talking, drinking from cups, and brushing teeth. Also look at the red flags. 20 years ago, I thought it was the doctor’s job to keep track of milestones. What I’ve learned is the more proactive parents can be in terms of looking at milestones, the better.
2. If You are Concerned, Schedule a Sick Visit with Your Family Doctor
If you find that there is a big gap between what the milestones are and what your child is doing or not doing, schedule a sick visit with your family doctor or another practitioner. Talk about some of the delays to get early intervention services in place.
Now, waiting lists for actual autism testing are long, but you should be able to get early intervention started. There are different agencies if your child is under or over three. Check with your doctor about where to call about early intervention assessment providers. You can also call your school district and they will be able to help. In the United States you should be entitled to a free or very low-cost multidisciplinary evaluation and services.
3. Learn About My Unique Child-Friendly ABA Approach
I have a free toddler guide called, Is it Autism, ADHD, Just a Speech Delay or Typical Toddler Tantrums? You can get it for free by going to marybarbera.com/toddler. After you get the guide, you can also watch an online workshop to get you on the right path to help your child or your early intervention clients talk more, tantrum less, sleep in their own bed, wean off bottles and pacifiers, potty train and a host of other issues that come up with kids with and without autism.