Research has shown that intensive therapy during the toddler or preschool years may significantly improve cognitive and language skills in young children with ASD. There is no single best treatment for all children with ASD, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recently noted common features of effective early intervention programs.
- Starting as soon as a child has been diagnosed with ASD.
- Providing focused and challenging learning activities at the proper developmental level for the child for at least 25 hours per week and 12 months per year
- Having small classes to allow each child to have one-on-one time with the therapist or teacher and small group learning activities.
- Having special training for parents and family
- Encouraging activities that include typically developing children, as long as such activities help meet a specific learning goal
- Measuring and recording each child’s progress and adjusting the intervention program as needed
- Providing a high degree of structure, routine, and visual cues, such as posted activity schedules and clearly defined boundaries, to reduce distractions
- Guiding the child in adapting learned skills to new situations and settings and maintaining learned skills
A well-rounded curriculum will focus on
- Language and communication
- Social learning skills, such as joint attention (looking at other people to draw attention to something interesting and share in experiencing it)
- Self-help and daily living skills, such as dressing and grooming
- Research-based methods to understand and reduce challenging behaviors, such as aggression and tantrums
- Developing cognitive skills with age and ability appropriate curriculum.
- Typical school-readiness skills, such as letter recognition and counting.
A Word About Therapy
People often worry that a window of opportunity closes if they don’t do “XYZ” therapy right away. Although early intervention is proven to have its benefits for many, consider that learning continues to happen throughout the lifespan. When opening your mind to this possibility, remember that some of our greatest teachers can be autistic youth and the autistic adults who have come before them.
Presume intelligence and competence. Assume youth and adults on the autism spectrum understand what you are saying to them and about them. It is often said that the parent knows his or her autistic child best, however, we would like you to consider that in most cases, it is really youth and adults on the spectrum who knows themselves the best.
Health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not represent endorsement by or an official position of Autism Empowerment. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient’s medical history.