When it comes to starting autism treatment, the early intervention bird gets the worm.
According to the Mayo Clinic, many children show “hints” of autism in their first year of life. Clearer signs can be seen when children reach the ages of 2 and 3. Not surprisingly, children are typically diagnosed by doctors around that same timeframe.
Signs and symptoms of autism can vary greatly from child to child. But the American Academy of Pediatricians encourages parents to trust their instincts if they feel something might be wrong early on. Any social, communication, or behavioral differences you see in your children should be reported to your pediatrician as soon as possible.
These developmental milestone checklists can give you a better idea of how your child is developing, based on things most children can do by a certain age.
It’s important to know as soon as possible if your child has autism, because research shows the earliest experiences of a child play a critical role in how their brain develops. For example, a child’s early social and emotional development is a prerequisite for developing cognitive and language skills as they grow.
Early diagnosis of autism makes early intervention possible.
In 2019, another research study found that an autism diagnosis becomes stable starting at 14 months of age. That’s exciting news for parents, because children could start treatment much earlier than before and reap the benefits of early intervention.
The gold standard early intervention for autism is ABA therapy. When started early, as young as two years old, ABA therapy and other interventions for autism can have major, long-term positive effects on a child’s symptoms and later on their skill development.
Time and time again, research has proven the gains children can and do make when they receive early, intensive intervention for autism. Just take a look at these findings:
- Children aged 1, 2, and 3 years old all made significant gains after one year of intense behavioral intervention. Those who started therapy before turning the age of 2 achieved the greatest gains in social, cognitive, and language development. (Research in Developmental Disabilities, The New England Center for Children, 2014)
- Gains that children make from early, intensive intervention are maintained two years later. (Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 2015)
- Young children who receive early intervention can achieve large gains in social, cognitive, and language development, with the greatest gains shown in children who started therapy prior to their second birthday. (Research in Developmental Disabilities, 2014)
- Children receiving early, intensive intervention on average had I.Q.s 11 points higher and exhibited 20 more daily living skills than children who did not. I.Q. and adaptive behavior are predictors of long-term functional outcome in individuals with autism. (Journal of Pediatrics, 2013)
- Eight-year-olds who received early intervention therapy displayed fewer aberrant behaviors and social problems. (Behavior Modification, 2007)
- Half of the children in one study who received early intervention therapy were succeeding in regular education classrooms by the age of 7. (American Journal of Mental Retardation, 2005)
Don't wait and see. An autism and ABA therapy expert can help.
As soon as you get an autism diagnosis (or even earlier if possible), seek treatment immediately. When you think about it, an extra year or even six months of early intervention is practically a lifetime for a young child, so don’t wait!
Here at The Behavior Exchange, we’ve been helping children with autism and their families for more than 20 years. Our highly accredited, early intervention autism services benefit children as young as two. Children often start in our One-on-One Therapy before graduating to B.E.E.S., the Behavior Exchange Early start program. It’s tons of fun like a preschool, where children build social skills and work on their individual goals at the same time.
The Behavior Exchange is proud to be a Behavioral Health Center of Excellence® with the highest accreditation possible. You can find us in Plano, Frisco, and Prosper, Texas, as well as in Boulder, Colorado.