Autism, also known as an autism spectrum disorder, is a syndrome in which a person, whether a child or an adult, has problems with social skills, voice, and nonverbal communication, as well as repetitive behavior or unusual differences. As a result, autism conditions can occur in a variety of ways, with the etiology thought to be a mixture of environmental factors and genetic composition. Because of its variable existence, autism is referred to as a spectrum disorder. In most cases, autism is difficult to classify in infants under the age of two. As a result, correct diagnosis is possible when an infant is between the ages of two and three. However, there are instances in which autism can be diagnosed in children as young as eighteen months of age. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the cases of autism are on the rise and approximate the prevalence as 1 in 68 children in the United States. However, the number of autistic males is higher than females. In addition, a larger number of autistic teenagers usually lose the school-based autism services once they become adults thus aggravating the condition.
Early child intervention is critical in alleviating the developmental delays associated with autism at an advanced age. Therefore, the following research paper will explore the benefits of early intervention among autistic children based on past studies and reports on the same.
Early Recognition of Autistic Symptoms
Early intervention is a system of service which supports younger children below the age of 5 who have developmental delays. Multiple studies show that early intervention programs for autistic children is contributing towards positive developmental outcome. Parents sometimes recognize unusual behavior in autistic children when as young as 12 months. However, the average age for diagnosing autism is around 3 to 4 years. Therefore, it is advisable for parents to refer the children to specialists as soon as they learn of unusual behavior in their newborns. The Center for Disease Control recently came up with the Act Early Campaign which is meant to encourage parents with autistic children to seek early intervention in order to facilitate the child's developmental process. Through this campaign, CDC came up with a hybrid of approaches which include both relationship-based and developmental based techniques in applied behavior to recognize symptoms of autism early enough. The intervention, as well as the recognition process, usually takes place in the normal play setting as well as other natural routines. The intervention process is mostly done by parents who are equipped with relationship-establishing skills which play an important role in facilitating the child's learning.
First, early intervention is critical in autism because the child can benefit from the behavioral therapies available.
Over the decades, studies have shown that compared to the adults, young children can readily benefit from behavioral therapies, especially in communication skills. Young autistic children easily improve their cognitive and language skills if such therapies are provided at a younger age. According to a study by Volkmar, Siegel, and Woodbury-Smith, early sustained interventions in autism which employ multiple treatment modalities are effective in preventing or minimizing developmental behavior (Volkmar, Siegel and Woodbury-Smith 237). In addition, early intervention programs for toddlers with autism help in improving the brain activity which improve their social responsiveness. This is because early therapies which focus on behavioral changes also alter a child's brain functions. In a study to determine the brain responses in children with autism who receive earlier intervention compared to a normal population of similar age, noninvasive electroencephalography showed that autistic children under the Early Start Denver Model of therapy had a higher brain activity compared to the other group. In addition, the brain pattern was identical to that of children without autism. Consequently, these children also demonstrate improved social behavior such as easy social communication and eye contact (Volkmar, Siegel and Woodbury-Smith 241).
Early intervention therapies for autistic children also comprise of multidisciplinary care, advocacy for individuals as well as coordination of such services to ensure that they are personalized a child fully benefits from the program.
For instance, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) usually develops practice parameters which are both patient and clinician-oriented. This implies that the used guidelines can guide the clinician in undertaking the correct assessment of the condition and coming up with the best treatment options depending on the needs of the child (Volkmar, Siegel and Woodbury-Smith 239).
Another reason why early intervention is recommended in autistic children is that it contributes towards a higher intelligence quotient as well as increased social and daily living skills.
Studies done on children who received earlier intervention compared to those who did not indicate that children who receive immediate care usually show improved communication skills, increased cognitive skills, and better everyday life skills. In addition, the autism symptoms are significantly reduced. In a study to determine the relationship between cognition, the severity of autism and the intervention outcome, Itzchak, Lahat and Burgin conducted a study with 81 children with developmental disorders and 44 children with autism spectrum disorders. They had a mean age of 25.9 months. The children were assessed for the intervention and later one year after the intervention. Standard tests were used to measure the cognitive abilities among the children. In this study, the level of intelligence quotient was categorized as normal when more than 90, borderline when the IQ was between 70 and 89 and impaired when the IQ is between 50 and 69 (Itzchak, Lahat and Burgin 447). After the intervention, the second assessment done indicated that compared to the children with development disorders, autistic children showed an increased IQ score (Itzchak, Lahat and Burgin 447). According to Itzchak, Lahat, and Burgin, the increased in the level of IQ among the autistic children was mainly associated with a reduction in autistic symptoms as well as stereotyped behavior. The study results show that in autism, the cognitive ability is associated with the severity of autism. Therefore, early intervention measures such as cognitive and language skills are critical in minimizing the severity of the disorder at a younger age thus improving a child's development (Itzchak, Lahat and Burgin 458). Intensive intervention at a younger age also contributes towards cognitive increments and improved social-communicative behavior.
Early intervention in autism is also important because the intervention strategies are necessary for assisting the parents and the families with autistic children to gain both confidence and competence in nurturing autistic children.
Parents who seek early intervention skills for their autistic children generally have better parenting skills which improve a child's quality of life as well as all developmental processes. The intervention skills taught to parents with autistic children are educational and therefore provide a comprehensive model of teaching on critical parental skills. Therefore, the interventionists must be skilled on proper ways to pass the information to the parents. Studies also show that intervention skills passed to parents with high levels of accuracy are more effective for the child's development and reduction of autism symptoms. Since autism spectrum disorder is not something that a child can just grow out of, it is important for earlier parental preparation in case a child is born autistic. Early interventional skills offered to parents are critical in alleviating both fear and confusion which arises by conflicting treatment advice. In addition, intervention enables the parent to be aware of the facts regarding autism and avoid myths which suggest that autism is incurable or it is a lifelong condition. Uninformed parents are likely to heed to such myths and deny the child early intervention which can significantly promote development (Ding 465). Therefore, early intervention is the most effective way to speed up the child's development by reducing the symptoms of autism. According to Ding, autism spectrum disorder can be a source of stress and long-term health and financial wellbeing of the family. Despite the current availability of pharmacological treatment, the most effective intervention which aids in a child's overall development is Parent-mediated early intervention. Such strategies should, therefore, be concentrated in rural regions especially in developing countries where parent are not likely to be well-equipped with management of autism (Ding 465). Other studies also suggest that earlier diagnosis of autism followed by timely intervention is associated with better outcomes. Once the communication, motor skills, and social skills delays are recognized early enough when the child's brain is still malleable and developing, it becomes much easier to influence positive behavior which reduces the autistic symptoms thus promoting positive development. Since the mind is not independent of the body during the developmental years, it is important to realize that a child's motor development is also directly related to the development of the mind. It is possible to realize unusual behavior among infants with autism such as showing less interest in faces and social orientation. Therefore, earlier intervention strategies such as motor training are critical for autistic children who have signs of abnormal social development. Another reason why early intervention in autism is preferred to the 'wait and see' approach is that the latter is considered to be more cost and time effective (Koegel, Koegel and Ashbaugh 50). For instance, the Early Start Denver Model which is an early behavioral therapy for children with autism not only improves development but is also cost effective because parents no longer need to take the children for ASD therapies or special education through school years if the earlier intervention is successful. Once the children undergo the community intervention, they are referred to the community whereby the parents are also free to seek advice regarding the condition of their children. In addition, autistic children who receive therapies at an early age usually require few hours of service per month in the long run compared to autistic children who do not receive the early intervention (Koegel, Koegel and Ashbaugh 54). The average cost of treatment and therapy for an autistic child is $10,000. On the other hand, earlier intervention through programs such as the ESDm costs approximately $5,560 per child (Autism Speaks). This cost time effectiveness indicates the importance of undertaking an early intervention inform of therapy for children with autism who rarely require similar services later on in life. Therapy at an early age for children with autism not only improves immediate cognitive and motor skills development but also increases the chance of being self-reliant in later years. Cases of school-age children who are unable to continue with education due to advanced cases of autism are on the rise (Wilkinson). The inability to go on with education or engage in normal social activities in adulthood such as marriage or employment in autism is associated with a failure to have access to early intervention therapy in childhood which promotes self-reliance. According to Wilkinson, evidence-based strategies including self-management are critical in addressing both attention and concentration difficulties, poor behavior, and other difficulties later on in life. Therefore, self-management is an important and positive practical classroom for children with autism which enhances independence, self-reliance as well as personal adjustment in order to fit in the social circles of life. This new knowledge suggests that as opposed to the teacher-managed interventions which mainly focus on self-regulated behavior as opposed to independent functioning, parent-regulated intervention is more helpful in facilitating self-management. Through such interventions, autistic children are able to learn about better behavior without necessarily being self-regulated (Wilkinson). This creates a good learning atmosphere which boosts personal development and self-management in the future. Autistic children who undergo early therapy learn better self-management skills. This means that such children are in a position to undertake further activities such as controlling, directing, maintaining or inhibiting behaviors in the future. Besides, the children no longer require the usual external support or structures from others. Consequently, the ability to have the desired behavior, especially in social circles, translates to better academic performance, better social adjustment, as well as an improved self-image. Therefore, early intervention strategies should be structured in such a way to improve self-management skills at an earlier age so that children, especially during the school years, are more independent from adult supervision or external control. Such strategies not only improve motor and cognitive development, but they also improve the quality of life especially among teenagers and adults living with autism.
The study outcome conforms to the thesis statement that early intervention among children with autism spectrum disorders show a better improvement in the motor, communication, and cognitive development. The studies analyzed in the research all show positive outcomes associated with early therapies. Such interventions have been found to be effective not only for children with autism or those with developmental concerns but also for parents who are able to understand their autistic children better from these intervention programs. Consequently, this is associated with a reduction in the burden of nurturing children with autism. Therefore, early intervention programs should be embraced because the individualized early intervention enables a child to achieve their potential and embrace themselves in the future. Therefore, such children are likely to be self-managed or even dependable in the future. The early intervention services provided by professional interventionists include parental workshops on the best way to manage children with autism, individual therapy services for children, and other early intervention and therapy programs. Teams of both educationists and health professional play an important role in guiding and teaching autistic children during the intervention. As opposed to waiting in order to see how a suspected case of autism will turn out, it is much better if it is reported for the child to receive the available early therapies. According to the cases studied above, failure to provide early treatment to children with autism results in slow motor and cognitive development. Consequently, self-reliance in the future is also minimal. In addition, failure to provide earlier intervention also leads to poor self-image in adulthood and teen years due to the inability to fit in the social circles.
Autism Speaks. Early Start Denver Model not only achieves optimal outcomes in IQ, social interaction, and brain activity but minimizes therapies required through school years following intervention. 1 May 2013. 15 May 2017