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Early Intervention Can Make a Difference for Autistic Children

smiling boy waiting to board school busWhat is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of developmental brain disorders that affect how children interact and communicate with each another. The term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of impairment, or disability, that children with ASD can have. Some children are mildly impaired by their symptoms, but others are severely disabled. Children with ASD also can have unusual behaviors and interests.  It is even possible for children with the exact same diagnosis to act quite differently from one another and yet, have varying capabilities. 


The Importance of Early Intervention.

Research shows that early intervention can greatly improve your child’s development.  The earlier a child is diagnosed as having autism, the better chance an appropriate treatment can be prescribed to improve your child’s quality of life. When a child receives the right treatment, they can have improvements in most areas of life. Acting early can make a big difference!


How Can I Recognize ASD in My Child?

Pay close attention to make sure that your child is reaching developmental milestones. Early warning signs may be subtle, but they do exist and can be recognized. According to Autism Speaks, children as young as one year old can show signs of autism; yet, the average age of diagnoses is not until about 50 months.

If your child is in a high-risk group, he or she should get extra monitoring. Your child may be high risk if he or she has:

  • a parent with an ASD, or
  • a brother or sister with an ASD.


Warning Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs)

People with an ASD might have symptoms that fall into one of these three categories:

  • social symptoms
  • communication difficulties
  • behavioral problems.

*Consult with your child’s pediatrician if you notice any of the following warning signs.*

Your child may be exhibiting social symptoms of ASD if he or she:

  • has trouble relating to others or does not have an interest in other people at all.
  • avoids eye contact and want to be alone.
  • has trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings.
  • prefers not to be held or cuddled or might cuddle only when thet want to.
  • does not play pretend games (pretend to feed a doll) or does not point at objects to show interest (point at an airplane flying over).
  • does not look at objects when another person points at them. 

Your child may be exhibiting communication difficulties of ASD if he or she:

  • appears to be unaware when other people talk to him/her but responds to other sounds.
  • does not respond when adults call his/her name.
  • is very interested in people, but does not know how to talk to, play with, or relate to them.
  • repeats or echoes words or phrases said to them, or repeats words or phrases in place of normal language (echolalia).
  • has trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions. 

Your child may be exhibiting behavioral problems if he or she:

  • repeats actions over and over again.
  • has trouble adapting to changes in routine.
  • has unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound.
  • loses skills they once had (for instance, stop saying words he/she was once using).

*Talk to your child’s doctor or nurse if your child loses skills at any age.* 


How Do I Get Help for My Child?

If you think your child may have an ASD, ask your child’s doctor for a referral to see a developmental pediatrician or other specialist. You can also call your local early intervention agency (for children under three) or public school (for children three and older).

For more information on testing and screening for autism, visit the CDC’s website and browse the “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” campaign materials. 

To find out who to speak to in your area, check with the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities.


Living with Autism

At one time, the outcome for a child who received an autism diagnosis was very poor. Now, treatment can help children with autism reach their full potential. With appropriate supports, people with ASD can live happily at school and in the community.

Being a parent or caregiver of a child with autism can be difficult at times. During age four or five is when most children with autism express the most severe symptoms. But, symptoms often improve after that, especially with treatment.

Even though your child may express signs of autism, it is important to stay positive, look to the future, and work toward goals.


Points to Remember

  • Early intervention and treatment can greatly improve an autistic child’s development and quality of life.
  • Watch for early warning signs of ASD.
  • Consult with your child’s pediatrician if you notice any of the warning signs in your child.
  • Talk to your child’s doctor if your child loses skills at any age.


Hope Through Research

Many research studies are underway to help us learn about Autism. Would you like to find out more about being part of this exciting research? Please visit the following links:


Autism Spectrum Disorder Resources


For more information:

Go to the Autism health topic.