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Autism and Early Intervention: Parent Experts Weigh In

By marylweimer |

By now you probably know that April is National Autism Awareness Month. You’ve probably heard the alarming statistic the Centers for Disease Control recently announced: that 1 in 88 children in the U.S. falls somewhere on the autism spectrum.

It’s likely that you encounter children and adults with autism each day in your community. Odds are that you have some understanding that autism affects individuals’ ability to communicate, interact socially, and perform in school.

You may think you know a lot about autism spectrum disorder, but would you be able to identify red flags or warning signs in your toddler? Would you know where to turn if you suspected that your child might be on the autism spectrum?

There’s a lot about autism that we don’t know: Why some kids have more severe symptoms than others. If the actual rate is increasing or if the recent increase can be explained by better detection. Or the big question: Exactly what causes it in the first place?

But we do know this: the earlier a child is diagnosed and begins therapy, the better the outcomes will be.

Eight parent experts have graciously shared their insights and experiences with us about the importance of early intervention in autism. They were also asked what advice they’d give to the parent of a toddler who suspects her child may have autism.

Please read and share; even though you may not be wrestling with questions about your child’s development, it’s likely that someone you know will benefit from this information.

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Toddlers and The Importance of Early Intervention in Autism

Sunday Stilwell - Call in the specialists

The first thing I suggest you do if you sense there's a problem is contact your state's Infant to Toddlers/Birth to Three program. This is a free assessment that includes a team of early intervention specialists who will come to your home and do a developmental assessment. Typically if the team finds more than a 25% delay in a specific area the child will qualify for free therapy provided by the state department of education and a referral to a developmental pediatrician for further diagnostic tests.

For those who have children over the age of three, I suggest you visit your pediatrician for a referral to a developmental pediatrician. These appointments may be scheduled months in advance, so I would also contact your child's school psychologist to discuss your concerns. A pediatric psychologist may be of help in assessing your child's development and getting the ball rolling on accessing services and therapies.
Connect with Sunday at Adventures in Extreme Parenthood.
Photo credit: Sunday Stilwell

Related Posts:

Top 30 Autism Blogs for Families

Special Needs Evaluations: Why Parents Hesitate

Signs of Autism Detectable in NICU Babies as Young as 1 Month Old

Mary Lauren Weimer is a social worker turned mother turned writer. Her blog, My 3 Little Birds, encourages moms to put down the baby books for a moment and tell their own stories. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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About marylweimer



Mary Lauren Weimer is a freelance writer and blogger. Her work has appeared in such places as Spirituality & Health and The Huffington Post, and she’s known for her thoughtful and introspective writing about all aspects of motherhood and the parent-child relationship.

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One thought on “Autism and Early Intervention: Parent Experts Weigh In

  1. Jeanne P. Nordquist says:

    I have taught for 36 years, primarily in special needs education, but also in general education. I have mainly taught, and currently teach, Early Childhood Special Education. My students come from the Early-On program and begin my classroom at 2 1/2 years old. I have a mixture of special needs students, including those with Austism Spectrum Disorder. In our school district we have early intervention for ASD children beginning at about the 4 year old level. Some students do well in my program but others, I believe, need materials and instruction specific to the needs of ASD children. In our district, we are encouraged (if not threatened,) not to bring up the subject of Austim to the parents of students we suspect as having the red flags indicating ASD. This is very disturbing to me. As a long-time teacher, I feel very competent in diagnosing autism in children who come to me. Some children have the educational eligiblity of ASD, but most (who later will be given that eligibility,) do not. Administrators are often holding back information from parents, and not providing proper assessments by Social Workers and Psycologists. Therefore children are not recieving the services they need from teachers with ASD certification until later than they can, and should be. The reasons are due to the fear of upsetting the parents who are resistant to hearing that there may be something specific holding thier child back, and also the problem of having to create additional classrooms for this specific purpose. ASD classrooms are more costly due to a lower student-to-teacher ratio and the need for additional classroom assistants. I do feel that with my prior experience teaching in cognitively impaired children, speech and language impaired children and children with a number of other special needs, I can, and do, to the best of my ability, meet the needs of my ASD students. However, there is a degree in this area for a reason. I do not have as much education and experience with current methods of ASD instruction (such as ABA.) We know that many children can be identified as on the autism spectrum by age 18 months or earlier. I feel that our district, and perhaps many other districts are doing a dis-service to autistic children and thier parents. I do not know how to fight this fight without jeopridizing my relationship with the administrators in my district, and I do feel that it is a loosing battle. So I remain quiet while feeling the pain that my students and parents deserve more. Early Intervention–a great idea if school districts would also respond to the need!

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