Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a complex disorder with no known cause or cure. No medical test exists to rule out or diagnose ASD, which is diagnosed based on observation of behavior. Autism is usually diagnosed by age 3.
Although much of what causes ASD is unknown, what is understood is that early, intensive intervention can have a profound affect on the quality of life of those children who are affected by ASD.
Early intervention is defined as intervention rendered to children from birth to age 3. Such early intervention has been shown to reduce the symptoms of ASDs. Studies have indicated that the reason this early intention is so successful is that younger brains are more flexible brains.
According to the Autism Society, “intensive early intervention yields a tremendous amount of progress in children by the time they enter kindergarten, often reducing the need for intensive supports [later].”
The University of Michigan Autism and Communication Disorders Center conducted a study of children with ASD that followed participants from age 2 through their teens. The results of the study, according to Catherine Lord, the Center’s director, indicated that early intervention leads to better treatment.
Since autism is treatable, but not curable, early intervention, then, is crucial. However, without early diagnosis, no such early and intense intervention is possible. Recognizing the early signs of autism is the first step in securing a diagnosis and treatment.
Parents should be pro-active in noticing early signs of autism and of bringing those signs to the attention of their child’s healthcare provider. With early diagnosis, early treatment and intervention can significantly impact a child’s ability to successfully communicate and interact in spite of his or her diagnosis.