Autism Spectrum Disorder: Early Diagnosis and Early Intervention

 January 29, 2015
Posted by M&LAdmin4

Thursday, January 29th 2015

Hey everyone, and welcome to our blog this week! We hope that you are all enjoying the winter – on our part, we are glad that it is almost February, and therefore one month closer to spring.

Well, here at M&L we recently heard some good news that we are anxious to share with you! On a recent search for interesting disability-related news, we came across an article published on the Autism Speaks website. This article focused on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and their Autism monitoring program. Currently the CDC monitors 8 year olds in a number of selected regions; this age was chosen based on the presumption that most affected children are identified by this age. According to the article, the CDC intends to extend this monitoring service; in fact, “over the next four years, the CDC aims to produce the first clear estimate of autism diagnosis and services among 4-year-olds.”

We feel that this is truly great news! Among all the tools that a parent of a child with special needs has to draw upon, early intervention is perhaps the most valuable. And, as the prevalence of ASD in Americans has risen to 1 in 68 (a increase of 6-15% over the last eight years), this extended monitoring is incredibly important to helping American families deal with and overcome the challenges that arise from raising a child with special needs. Additionally, as the cost of ASD services in the United States is estimated to be around $230 billion per year (as taken from Autism Society website) the fact that early intervention services (which would come from earlier diagnosis resulting from the CDC monitoring) will decrease the cost of Autism services by 2/3 is a welcome bonus.

In celebration of this news, we have decided to devote today’s blog to discussing ASD, early intervention and its importance, and provide you with some resources to access early intervention services in your state. Please join us!

What is Autism?

As there are, quite literally, thousands of pages containing information on ASD on the Internet, we won’t spend too much time talking about it in this blog. For those of you who aren’t familiar with ASD, however, here is a brief definition (as found on the Autism Speaks website):

“Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors… ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Some persons with ASD excel in visual skills, music, math and art.”

The roots and/or causes of ASD have yet to be identified, although many scientists are researching very early brain development for more information. ASD is usually identifiable between the ages of 2 and 3.

What is Early Intervention, and why is it important?

Early intervention is a series or system of services that help children learn skills, achieve milestones, and stay on par developmentally with their peers. The theory behind early intervention is that the younger the brain, the more flexible or “plastic” it is; early intervention professionals say that skills learned during this time frame are more readily recalled than at any other time during a child’s life. Early intervention programs are designed to help your child improve on any weaknesses he or she may have, and also to build on the strengths that they possess. A well-rounded, comprehensive early intervention program addresses five areas of development – cognitive, physical, language, social-emotional, and adaptive/self-help skills development.

Early intervention is crucial for one simple reason: it can minimize (and it some cases prevent) any delays in the development of your child. Not only will early intervention bring your child closer to the developmental stage of his or her peers, it can also help to minimize the need for special education services and other supports when a child enters the school system. As well, it helps to foster independence and gives the child tools that he or she can rely on to navigate life as an individual with a disability.

If you weren’t already convinced, consider this quote from “Does My Child Have Autism?” published by Wendy Stone and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo:

A good early intervention program has at least four benefits: It will provide your child with instruction that will build on his or her strengths to teach new skills, improve behaviors, and remediate areas of weakness. It will provide you with information that will help you better understand your child’s behavior and needs. It will offer resources, support, and training that will enable you to work and play with your child more effectively. It will improve the outcome for your child. For these reasons, an intervention program for your child should be implemented as soon as possible after he or she receives a diagnosis.”

How do I access these services?

Under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), all children in the United States are entitled to early intervention services. The IDEA provides states with federal grants to institute these programs, however each state has its own set of regulations governing the program. The following services are provided in every state, free of charge:

Child Find services
Evaluations and Assessment
Development and Review of the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)
Service Coordination.

The other services available (and their respective costs) vary by state; parents may be charged for additional services on a “sliding-scale fee”, i.e. based on your income. All costs are required to be written and presented to parents, however, so there are no hidden charges or surprise bills.

For more information on Early Intervention in general, please visit the parentcenterhub.org’s webpage, Overview of Early Intervention. For specific information on how to access early intervention services in your home state, please click here. As always, if you would like more information on and issue relating to special needs financial and life planning, please contact us.

Would You Like More Information?

Thank you so much for taking the time to join us today! Here at M&L we love meeting new people and helping families with special needs overcome the challenges that life throws at us. If you have any questions about special needs planning in general, do not hesitate to contact us by telephone, email or via any of our social media accounts. If you found this blog interesting, please subscribe! We publish a new blog on a special needs related topic every week – we also take requests!

Don’t forget to drop back next week – we will be taking a look at services and supports available to individuals with special needs, and how these can change as your child ages into adulthood.

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