Autism Early Intervention Helps
By Dan Gesslein
As a result, autism early intervention is the best treatment.
Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder that affects communication and socialization.
Mindy Small, senior coordinator of Autism Services at Birch Family Services, said early intervention is the only way to make progress. The earlier the child receives treatment and services the better they will be. In some cases parents do not put their children in school until the age of 5. At that point the child is behind by almost three years.
“The earlier we get them services the better the outcome,” she said.
However, several factors prevent parents from seeking help. It could be due to lack of communication in immigrant communities or simply maybe a case of denial. In either case early treatment is needed.
Here are some of the “red flags” for detecting autism as stated by the CDC:
A person with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) might:
Not respond to their name by 12 months of age.
Not point at objects to show interest (point at an airplane flying over) by 14 months.
Not play “pretend” games (pretend to “feed” a doll) by 18 months.
Avoid eye contact and want to be alone.
Have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings.
Have delayed speech and language skills.
Repeat words or phrases over and over.
Give unrelated answers to questions.
Get upset by minor changes.
Have obsessive interests.
Flap their hands, rock their body, or spin in circles.
Have unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel.
Small said several factors can prevent a parent from seeking early help for their child.
Members of immigrant communities are less likely to seek help for a child.
“New York is a big city and we’re still struggling with getting kids the services they need,” Small said.
Others simply refuse to accept the possibility of autism and instead believe the child is just speech delayed.
“It’s a lot easier to accept a speech disorder rather than a child being on the autism spectrum.”
Today 1 in 54 children are being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
“We are catching more kids with autism.”
Frequently a pediatrician during a check up will see some of the red flags that indicate autism. Or a parent tells the doctor of behavior that they are concerned about such as delayed speech. The doctor then helps set up an evaluation to see if the child is on the autism spectrum.
If the child is diagnosed with autism then the child can receive treatment in their home if they are under the age of 3. Children older than 3 will be enrolled in treatment centers like the Kennedy Center in Morris Park.
Then the preschooler can enroll in a school that treats children with autism like Birch. Children attending such schools in addition to receiving the basics, are given speech classes, physical therapy and occupational therapy.
Before the child graduates preschool, a series of educators sit down to evaluate the child to create the child’s IEP (Individual Education Plan). This evaluation finds the best fit for a specialized kindergarten for the child. They also determine how many speech classes a child should receive and whether a child needs programs for behavioral issues, etc.
“It’s tailor made to meet the specific needs of a student.”
Frequently children with autism are enrolled in physical therapy and occupational therapy programs. This is because the child has motor planning issues. In autism, the communication between the brain and the limbs gets blocked. As a result therapists help the child with simple tasks like taking off their jackets or climbing stairs, etc.
Some children with autism have sensory issues. Their senses are heightened causing them discomfort.
“Everything is too loud and too bright,” Small said.
One such example is a child covering their ears when they are with a crowd of people. Some children will get upset and scream and others will just be annoyed. It depends on the child. No one child has the same issues and the same degrees.
Small works with people with autism who have college degrees, who are married with children.
“No 2 individuals with autism are the same,” she said.
For more info about autism resources: https://birchfamilyservices.org or https://www.autismspeaks.org