April is “Autism Awareness Month” and it is critical that everyone understand how important it is for children demonstrating signs of autism to be diagnosed and receive early intervention therapy. Early intervention therapy such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the best hope for these children to overcome many obstacles and reach their full potential.
Early signs of autism in babies and toddlers:
• Doesn’t make eye contact (e.g. look at you when being fed).
• Doesn’t smile when smiled at.
• Doesn’t respond to his or her name or to the sound of a familiar voice.
• Doesn’t follow objects visually.
• Doesn’t point or wave goodbye or use other gestures to communicate.
• Doesn’t follow the gesture when you point things out.
• Doesn’t make noises to get your attention.
• Doesn’t initiate or respond to cuddling.
• Doesn’t imitate your movements and facial expressions.
• Doesn’t reach out to be picked up.
• Doesn’t play with other people or share interest and enjoyment.
• Doesn’t ask for help or make other basic requests.
The following delays warrant an immediate evaluation by your child’s pediatrician:
• By 6 months: No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions.
• By 9 months: No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions.
• By 12 months: Lack of response to name.
• By 12 months: No babbling or “baby talk.”
• By 12 months: No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving.
• By 16 months: No spoken words.
• By 24 months: No meaningful two-word phrases that do not involve imitating or repeating.
Signs and symptoms of autism in older children:
Common self-stimulatory behaviors:
• Hand flapping
• Rocking back and forth
• Spinning in a circle
• Finger flicking
• Head banging
• Staring at lights
• Moving fingers in front of the eyes
• Snapping fingers
• Tapping ears
• Lining up toys
• Spinning objects
• Wheel spinning
• Watching moving objects
• Flicking light switches on and off
• Repeating words or noises
Early Intervention Is Key
The ‘wait and see’ method, which is often recommended to concerned parents, could lead to missed opportunities for early intervention,” states Rebecca Landa, PhD, director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders and the REACH research program at Kennedy Krieger Institute. “By acting early, we are providing toddlers tools and skills to increase social opportunities throughout their lifetime and positioning them to have the best possible outcomes.”
“There is no debate or doubt: early intervention is your child’s best hope for the future. Early attention to improving the core behavioral symptoms of autism will give your child – and the rest of the family – several important benefits that you will not gain if you take a wait-and-see approach until your child enters school at age four or five”. – Wendy L. Stone, PhD
Why ABA for Early Intervention?
Today, ABA is widely recognized as a safe and effective treatment for autism. It has been endorsed by a number of state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Surgeon General and the New York State Department of Health. Over the last decade, the nation has seen a particularly dramatic increase in the use of ABA to help persons with autism live happy and productive lives. In particular, ABA principles and techniques can foster basic skills such as looking, listening and imitating, as well as complex skills such as reading, conversing and understanding another person’s perspective.