Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The importance of early intervention

I am a huge believer in early intervention. There are a variety of services that can be utilized to get early intervention services. If a child is under three years old, there is the birth to three program. To pursue services in the the birth to three program, a referral must be put into either your local school district's special education department or to your local Child Find representative. An evaluation will be conducted after a referral is sent into the Birth to Three program. Timelines will vary by state and services will vary depending upon the area that you live in. The birth to three program should be considered at the earliest sign of a developmental delay. The program has certified special education teachers, speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists. This is a great way to begin the process of looking at early intervention services. Please know that if your child is under three and does not yet have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder there are stringent requirements to get into this program. Please do not assume that there is not a delay if your child does not meet eligibility requirements. My son did not meet eligibility requirements when he was tested at two years old and he is now diagnosed as having high functioning autism spectrum disorder. You can read more about eligibility requirements in my IEP blog series that is located in the menu on this page.
When a child is over three years old, school districts offer what is called developmental preschool. Developmental preschool is for children who are from age three to five. A referral must also be put into Child Find or your local special education department to look at services. My son ended up qualifying for this program at age three. He qualified before he received his autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. He attended developmental preschool for four afternoons a week and he also received speech therapy and occupational therapy in this program. An evaluation will need to be conducted to look at eligibility for this program. A parent will typically need to state the areas that they want to look at getting evaluated when making the referral into this program. Examples of areas include: social-emotional, communication, fine motor, gross motor, and adaptive skills. My son ended up qualifying in communication, social, and fine motor. This is a really great program to work on important skills.

In addition to what is offered publicly, there is also the option of pursuing private therapy. To pursue private therapy, your pediatrician will need to make a referral to a local therapist. Examples of private therapy include: speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, music therapy, and applied behavior analysis. My son did all of these therapies privately in addition to receiving these therapies through the school district. We started private therapy at age two and I really believe that private therapy has made a significant impact on my son. My son had a really tight schedule early on, but I am a firm believer that early intervention contributed to the reasons why my son has made such significant gains.

I do want to say that not every child who is diagnosed with autism will end being classified as high functioning despite every attempt at early intervention in the world, but I think that it's important to note that I still believe in early intervention 100%. I say this because, I have seen the successes of early intervention first hand. I have seen kiddos go from not being toilet trained to being toilet trained. I have seen kiddos go from exhibiting self-injurious behavior to not. Early intervention can do great things and that is why I am a huge believer in the importance of a child receiving early intervention services.

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