why is early intervention important for autism

Why is early intervention so important? Autism is not rare, it affects 1 in 100 people in Australia. There is no known cause and no cure, but research shows early intervention makes a big difference to a child s development leading to improved outcomes for children with ASD, including higher intelligence (IQ), and increased social and daily living skills (Boyd et al. , 2014; Magiati, Tay, Howlin, 2012; Prior, Roberts, Roger, Williams, 2011; Warren et al. , 2011). Key elements of good practice in early intervention that lead to the best likelihood of positive outcomes for children with ASD have been identified through reviews of the research and are documented in the Australian Guidelines for Good Practice (Prior Roberts, 2012) which AEIOU uses to inform their program. In addition, AEIOU draws from established evidence-based strategies (Wong et al. , 2014) in informing the use of specific practices for each child. We have evaluated the outcomes of the AEIOU program and found improvements in ASD symptoms, and increases in communication and daily living skills (Paynter, Scott, Beamish, Duhig, Heussler, 2012) and continue to conduct research to further investigate and improve our outcomes. Our more recent research has also found promising results in terms of increases in everyday life skills (Vineland Adaptive Behaviour Scales), particularly around communication, decreases in autism symptoms (Social Communication Questionnaire), and increases in cognitive skills (Vivanti, Paynter, Duncan, Fothergill, Dissanayake, Rogers, 2014). Young children with autism who receive the recommended early intervention have a much greater chance, later in life, of living independently, securing employment and developing meaningful and lasting friendships and relationships with long-term research showing benefits for children as they grow and develop (Howlin, 1997). According to a recently released report by Synergies Economic Consulting (2014), autism is costing Australia an estimated $8 billion a year in healthcare, social services and education costs, employment and informal care costs and burden of disease costs (quality of life impacts). The report showed that if the nation spent $118 million a year on early intervention for about 1,200 pre-school children with autism, who stood to benefit from the intervention, Australia would reap a total net economic benefit of an estimated $1. 22 billion a year with a benefit cost ratio of 11. 3. AEIOU is committed to ongoing research and development. We were a founding partner of the Griffith University Autism Centre of Excellent (Griffith ACE) and continue to support a number of research projects. Further, AEIOU and Griffith University together supported the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism Spectrum Disorders (Autism CRC) application which is the world s first national, cooperative research effort focused on ASD, and today partner in a funding agreement in support of the program. In line with this commitment AEIOU has, over the past year, manualised their early intervention program in order to help measure and improve practice, enhance staff knowledge and application of best practice and ensure consistency in delivery across its centres. Importantly, this also allows us to measure against other services, enabling further ongoing research regarding AEIOU s program and the futures of the children the organisation supports.
Early intervention refers to doing things as early as possible to work on your childs autism spectrum disorder (ASD) characteristics.

Early intervention for children with ASD is made up of therapies and services. Therapies (also called interventions) are the programs or sessions aimed at helping your childs development. Services are the places and organisations that offer these therapies. A service might offer one therapy or several types. Starting intervention as young as possible is most effective in helping the development of children with ASD. You can even get things started before your child has a formal diagnosis. For example, problems with communication are a big cause of tantrums and other difficult behaviour for children with ASD. If children cant communicate their needs or understand others, they express themselves or get attention with difficult behaviour. But if they learn to communicate effectively as early as possible, they wont need to behave like this quite so much. Another reason for starting early is that it can help children with early brain development which has been linked to possible. All therapies and services for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) should be family focused, well structured and based on good evidence. Heres a list of characteristics to look for when choosing an early intervention. The more of these characteristics you find in a service the better but not all interventions will do all these things. Family focused provides families with support and guidance. Well structured is highly structured, well organised, regular and predictable enables contact between the child with ASD and typically developing children (ideally of the same age). Evidence-based focuses on developing attention, compliance, imitation, language and social skills has an approach to reducing difficult behaviour that involves identifying what the purpose of a behaviour is, and then teaching more appropriate alternative behaviour to replace the difficult behaviour. You can print out a checklist of these (PDF: 39kb). Other things to consider Intensive early intervention for children with ASD is most effective. Its not just about the hours, though its also about the quality of those hours and how the therapy engages your child. It can be scary when you first find out what an early intervention therapy or service costs in time and money. Still, try not to panic. Instead try to focus on what you want for your child and your family. Learn all you can about the available options. How will they help your child? What will they cost in dollars and time? What funding is available to help cover these costs? Different children with ASD respond in different ways to interventions, so no single program will suit all children and their families. A good intervention involves regular assessment to check that your child is making progress. The gains might be small at first, but it all adds up. If theres no progress, the intervention might need to change or be stopped. Good intervention services see your child as a child first and as part of a whole family, not just as a person with autism. To begin with, find out all you can about your early intervention options. Three questions will help you get started: What did the professionals who diagnosed your child recommend? The assessment or diagnosis should help you understand your childs current skills and possible gaps in skills or development.

It should also include a treatment plan you can take to service providers. What relevant service providers are in your area? Get a list of local services from your autism advisor. Or use our to find out whats available. What do you know about the interventions these service providers offer? Learn more about. The most important thing to look for is the credentials of a service and its key providers or employees. Here are some pointers to help you establish the credentials of a service: Is the service on the Australian Governments Helping Children with Autism (HCWA)? Services on this panel have been evaluated by the Department of Social Services (DSS) and meet well-established standards of best practice. Does the service get state or Australian Government funding? Not all qualified services have applied to be on the HCWA Early Intervention Provider Panel. So check to see whether the service gets any direct government funding. Government-funded services have a Funding and Services Agreement, which means their performance is checked regularly. Do the services staff members have professional registration and/or appropriate training? You could check with professional associations such as the or. These associations have lists of members and their particular areas of expertise. Is the service professionally linked with other well-established services? For example, services associated with universities and hospitals are usually well researched and regulated. Other things to consider There are other good services that are not funded or listed by government (such as some home-based programs). Theyre usually funded by fees and fundraising of their own. This doesnt mean you should avoid them, but the fees can be a strain for some families. If youre satisfied that the service uses reputable approaches, consider the impact of the services cost for your family in terms of time and money. Families of children aged 0-6 years might be able to get up to $12 000 in government funding through the HCWA package to help pay for services on the Provider Panel. Each state and territory government offers a range of early intervention funding. This funding is either made directly to services, or provided as funding packages for families to cover certain expenses. If you need more information about a service youre considering, try the following: Contact your. Itll have good information on reputable and trustworthy services in your area and can let you know about funding to your local services. It can also put you in touch with your local autism advisor. Autism advisors cant recommend a therapy or service, but can give you more information and advice. They can let you know how to register for an Early Days face-to-face workshop on ASD and early intervention options. For more information about ASD and how to support your childs early development, you could take part in an. Find out. Check what the research shows about results achieved by the intervention or service. When youre looking at research, remember that the most reliable research will be done using a scientific approach. You can usually rely on research carried out at universities, hospitals and research institutes and published in reputable journals.

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