Autism and the Benefits of Early Intervention
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a rising percentage of the world population is being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). As of 2014, an estimated 1 percent of the world population had an ASD, with the United States estimating 1 in 68 children or 3.5 million Americans living with ASD.
Research is increasingly proving that children with an ASD benefit from the earliest interventions possible. In 2001, the National Research Council urged families not to use the “wait and see” method for early intervention as it was “likely to have significant and negative consequences.”
Louise Kaczmarek, from the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, cites intervention strategies that have been most successful are those that “use a hybrid approach, integrating developmental and/or relationship-based techniques with those of applied behavior analysis (which focuses on applying the principles of learning).” These types of interventions are usually play-based and parent-facilitated. They typically occur “within the natural routines and activities of the child’s day.”
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Early interventions can impact multiple areas of a child’s life including—but not limited to—their academic success, communication skills, and may alleviate fiscal responsibility for continuing therapies.
A scientific commentary by Lynn Kern Koegel, Robert L. Koegel, Kristen Ashbaugh, and Jessica Bradshaw published by the University of California, Santa Barbara, compiled data proving that “most research clinics report that, with intervention, most children will be included in regular education classrooms, and as many as 25% of children will lose the diagnosis completely (Cohen, Amerine Dickens, & Smith, 2006; Helt, Kelley, Kinsbourne, Pandey, Boorstein, Herbert, et al., 2008; Lovaas, 1987; Sallows & Graupner, 2005).” A second study by the University of Washington in Seattle offers support to the argument that early intervention can improve an autistic child’s success stating that, “early intervention programs improve the IQ of children with ASD by approximately 18 points.”
Nonverbal children with autism are more likely to gain speech skills the earlier intervention begins. Koegel’s commentary cites data suggesting that, “children who are completely nonverbal who begin intervention in the early preschool years are far more likely to become verbal than children who begin intervention over the age of 5-years (Koegel, 2000).” Additionally, fewer than 10% of nonverbal children remain nonverbal when following an early intervention program (Koegel, 2000).
An article in the Journal of Child and Family Studies states that families who seek early interventions may incur, “ﬁscal savings, as untreated symptoms of ASD become more abundant and severe later in life, requiring more costly interventions (Chasson, Harris, & Neely, 2007; Jacobson & Mulick, 2000; Jacobson, Mulick, & Green, 1998).”
While autism spectrum disorders are typically a lifelong condition, research suggests that some children may eliminate or reduce their symptoms, “to the point where the individuals ﬁt within the typical range (Koegel 2004), and almost half can eventually function without the need for special support.”
This research is supported by The National Institute of Child Health stating that, “With early intervention, between 3% and 25% of children with autism make so much progress that they are no longer on the autism spectrum when they are older. (Helt)”
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). (2016, July 11). Retrieved October 07, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html
Kaczmarek, L. (2014, February). The Benefits of Early Intervention for Children with Autism.
Retrieved October 03, 2017, from https://www.education.pitt.edu/newsletter/PittEd/article.aspx?id=25#.WdG3LbpFy4A
Koegel, L. K., Koegel, R. L., Ashbaugh, K., & Bradshaw, J. (2014). The importance of early
identiﬁcation and intervention for children with or at risk for autism spectrum disorders. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 50-56. Retrieved October 3, 2017, from https://education.ucsb.edu/sites/default/files/autism_center/images/Koegel,%20Koegel,%20Ashbaugh,%20Bradshaw%20(2014)%20The%20importance%20of%20early%20identification%20and%20intervention%20for%20children%20with%20or%20at%20risk%20for%20autisms%20pectrum%20disorders_0.pdf.
Helt, M., Kelley, E., e, M., Pandey, J., Boorstein, H., Herbert, M., et al. (2008).
Katherine G. Hobbs is a freelance journalist and university student studying English, with an emphasis on journalism, and psychology. She is interested in the impact of having a special needs child on the family dynamic. Katherine is dedicated to bringing awareness of resources to families and providing help to those who love their autistic children. You can find her online at katherineghobbs.com.