How important is Early Intervention?
“Don’t worry.” These two words have often discouraged parents and have prevented many children with developmental delays from getting what they need: early screening and identification, and appropriate intervention. Despite the fact that there is a direct correlation between early identification and improved development, parents with concerns about their children are often told not to worry. “Don’t worry...boys develop more slowly. Don’t worry...she’ll grow out of it. Don’t worry...Einstein was a late talker too. Don’t worry...just give it a few months.” If you have concerns about your child you need to push for the help they may need.
Common knowledge says that parents whose child has been diagnosed with autism should run -- not walk -- to the nearest therapist. Early intensive intervention, it is said, is the key to "optimal outcomes" for autistic children. Scientists have long known that the brain grows quickly between the ages of zero and three, which suggests that early intervention would be an ideal way to treat a childhood disorder.
Early Intervention is common sense?
It makes sense to treat an autistic child as early as possible. The reasons, though, are not research-based: they're simple common sense. Preschoolers have no other obligations, so their whole day can be devoted to therapy (as opposed to academics). Two-year-olds have few ingrained habits, so it's relatively easy to stop negative behaviours before they become intractable. And very young children are ... very young children. Even in the grocery store, bad behaviours can be tolerated. Once a child is nine or ten, tantrums in a store are simply unacceptable.
Early Intervention works
There's no doubt that autistic children who undergo intensive intervention, be it behavioural or developmental, do better than children who don't. And there's certainly no good reason to wait to provide such therapy.
How well does such therapy work? That depends upon the child. As each individual child has his own profile, abilities, and challenges, each child will have his own outcomes. But even a little progress is far better than none, especially when that progress comes in the form of new communication skills that allow a child to express his desires and needs
If you have a young child with autism, you've probably heard this over and over again: "Experts agree that early, intensive intervention is critically important." This has led a lot of parents to try everything they can as early as they can, with the hope of nipping autism in the bud. Before you start a program of early intervention, though, it's important to know -- what can early intervention really do for your child with autism?
Developed by child psychiatrist Stanley Greenspan, Floortime is an intervention method and a philosophy for interacting with autistic children. It is based on the premise that the child can increase and build a larger circle of interaction with an adult who meets the child at his current developmental level and who builds on the child's particular strengths.
The goal in Floortime is to move the child through the six basic developmental milestones that must be mastered for emotional and intellectual growth. Greenspan describes the six rungs on the developmental ladder as: self regulation and interest in the world; intimacy or a special love for the world of human relations; two-way communication; complex communication; emotional ideas; and emotional thinking. The autistic child is challenged in moving naturally through these milestones as a result of sensory over- or under-reactions, processing difficulties, and/or poor control of physical responses.
In Floortime, the parent engages the child at a level the child currently enjoys, enters the child's activities, and follows the child's lead. From a mutually shared engagement, the parent is instructed how to move the child toward more increasingly complex interactions, a process known as "opening and closing circles of communication." Floortime does not separate and focus on speech, motor, or cognitive skills but rather addresses these areas through a synthesized emphasis on emotional development. The intervention is called Floortime because the parent gets down on the floor with the child to engage him at his level.
ABA Applied Behaviour Analysis
Behaviour analysis is a natural science of behaviour that was originally described by B.F. Skinner in the 1930's. The principles and methods of behaviour analysis have been applied effectively in many arenas. For example, methods that use the principle of positive reinforcement to strengthen a behaviour by arranging for it to be followed by something of value have been used to develop a wide range of skills in learners with and without disabilities.
Since the early 1960's, hundreds of behaviour analysts have used positive reinforcement and other principles to build communication, play, social, academic, self-care, work, and community living skills and to reduce problem behaviours in learners with autism of all ages. Some ABA techniques involve instruction that is directed by adults in highly structured fashion, while others make use of the learner¹s natural interests and follow his or her initiations. Still others teach skills in the context of ongoing activities.
All skills are broken down into small steps or components, and learners are provided many repeated opportunities to learn and practice skills in a variety of settings, with abundant positive reinforcement.
The goals of intervention as well as the specific types of instructions and reinforcers used are customized to the strengths and needs of the individual learner. Performance is measured continuously by direct observation, and intervention is modified if the data show that the learner is not making satisfactory progress.
Regardless of the age of the learner with autism, the goal of ABA intervention is to enable him or her to function as independently and successfully as possible in a variety of environments.
GLUTEN FREE DIETS
Many families of children with autism spectrum disorders are interested in dietary and nutritional interventions that might help some of their children's symptoms. Removal of gluten (a protein found in barley, rye, oats, and wheat) and casein (a protein found in dairy products), in what is known as a Gluten Free, Casein Free diet, or GFCF, is a popular dietary treatment for symptoms of autism. It is based on the hypothesis that these proteins are absorbed differently in children with autism spectrum disorders and act like false opiate-like chemicals in the brain.
The hypothesis is not based on an allergic response. Neither the hypothesis nor the effectiveness of this dietary intervention has been demonstrated in scientific studies to date. Studies are ongoing in a number of centers. However, many families report that dietary elimination of gluten and casein has helped regulate bowel habits, sleep, activity, habitual behaviors and enhance overall progress in their individual child. No specific laboratory tests can predict which children might be observed by their families to have a positive response to dietary intervention. For that reason, many families elect a trial of dietary restriction with careful observation by the family and intervention team.
A trial of dietary restriction requires attention to basic nutritional guidelines. Dairy products are the most common source of calcium and vitamin D in young children. Many young children depend on dairy products for a balanced protein intake. Alternative sources of these nutrients require substitution of other food and beverage products with attention to nutritional content rather than solely as a milk substitute beverage. Substitution of gluten free products requires attention to the overall fiber and vitamin content of a child's diet. Vitamin and supplement use may have both positive effects and side effects. Consultation with a dietitian or physician should be considered and can be helpful to families in the determination of healthy application of a GFCF diet. This may be especially true for children who are picky eaters.
TEACCH (Training and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children) is a special education program that is tailored to the autistic child's individual needs based on general guidelines. It dates back to the 1960's when doctors Eric Schopler, R.J. Reichler and Ms Margaret Lansing were working with children with autism and constructed a means to gain control of the teaching setup so that independence could be fostered in the children. What makes the TEACCH approach unique is that the focus is on the design of the physical, social and communicating environment. The environment is structured to accommodate the difficulties a child with autism has while training them to perform in acceptable and appropriate ways.
Building on the fact that autistic children are often visual learners, TEACCH brings visual clarity to the learning process in order to build receptiveness, understanding, organization and independence. The children work in a highly structured environment which may include physical organization of furniture, clearly delineated activity areas, picture-based schedules and work systems, and instructional clarity. The child is guided through a clear sequence of activities and thus aided to become more organized.
It is believed that structure for autistic children provides a strong base and framework for learning. Though TEACCH does not specifically focus on social and communication skills as fully as other therapies it can be used along with such therapies to make them more effective