Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Why Early Intervention?

Autism is not a rare disorder, from the 2012 ABS Autism in Australia report, 0.5 percent of the population or 115,400 people have been diagnosed with autism. For every four boys who are diagnosed, 1 girl is diagnosed. There is still no single known cause of autism and there is no cure.


There is one thing that has been shown to assist children who have been diagnosed with Autism and that is Early Intervention therapy.

L has been attending therapy at the Autism Association of Western Australia First Steps for Autism Program at one of their Early Intervention Centres since February 2016 and he has made the most remarkable progress.

Yet we are still asked on a regular basis, why are you sending L to this therapy? We are also asked what early intervention is.

So......

Why Early Intervention Therapy?

It has been shown that children with autism benefit from early intervention programs. The early intervention makes a huge difference to a child's development which leads to better outcomes for the children at school and in social situations. The earlier that a child starts in an early intervention program, the better the outcome for the child.

Prior to starting early intervention therapy, L struggled on a daily basis with communication and as such he would express himself through challenging behaviours.

The therapy sessions have helped us to identify the purpose of L's challenging behaviour and has in turn taught L more appropriate alternative behaviours to replace the challenging behaviours. L's key therapist has also given us new ways in which to mange his challenging behaviours.

Through the therapy that he attends, L has learnt to communicate effectively and he has learnt social skills. Throughout every therapy session he is able to interact with children his own age in a controlled environment so that he is able to practice the skills that he is learning. And while at the early intervention centre, his therapists are always on hand to step in when he needs them to.

L's therapy focuses on developing his attention and communication skills, listening, language and social skills. His therapy goals have been set based upon his current skill level and also on his goals from his NDIS funding plan.
So what is early intervention?

Early intervention is made of a system of coordinated therapies (or interventions) and services that offer these therapies. The therapies are conducted via programs and sessions that are aimed at assisting a child's development.

If you look up the definition of early intervention it states "doing something, taking action or using a treatment to try to improve a particular condition."

Put simply the aim of early intervention is not to cure your child, it is aimed at developing the skills that your child needs to learn to navigate the world around them. It isn't about changing your child, it is about helping your child's age appropriate growth and development. These skills may include teaching your child communication skills, it may be skills to manage their sensory issues, it may be teaching them how to recognise and respond to their own emotions.

The First Steps of Autism Program that L attends is designed for children with autism aged 0 to 8 years old.

The program that L attends is conducted by a trans-disciplinary team that consists of psychologists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, early childhood and primary teachers and therapy assistants. The ratio of children is staff is brilliant - there are some sessions that L attends where the staff outnumber the children!

L participates in an intensive three hours of therapy once a week at the centre.

Depending on the severity of a child's ASD diagnosis, they may attend the centre for more therapy hours throughout the week.

L started in a one on one therapy program which also included group sessions with other children. The therapy that was offered was tailored to meet his individual needs and his NDIS goals.

He has now progressed to the school readiness program. This is purely a group session but each child's therapy goals are integrated into the sessions. Through the school readiness program L is developing the skills that he requires for his effective participation at school.

All of the therapy at the early intervention centre is play based - the children engage in fun activities during which they are learning and practising new skills.


Which Early Intervention Service do I choose?

Prior to obtaining L's autism diagnosis, I will admit that I knew very little about the therapies that are available to individuals with autism.

When it comes to looking into and researching different early intervention programs and services, it can be very difficult to know where and how to start.

In regards to autism, there are many different kinds of early intervention services. Different children will respond to therapy in different ways. What works for one child, will not necessarily work for the next child. It really is a case of you needing to find the best fit for your child and your family.

Do your research. If possible, arrange to visit the early intervention centre so that you can view their set up and their programs first hand. 

It can be quite scary when you find out the cost, both money and time, involved in an early intervention program but if you look towards the end goal, it really is worth it.

Ask yourself the following questions -

How will the early intervention service help your child?
What funding is available to assist to cover the costs of therapy?
What will the therapy cost?


What does a good Early Intervention service look like?

I'm not an expert when it comes to early intervention services, I can only go on our experiences with L's early intervention service.

But in my mind, a good early intervention program provides the following:

- The staff include the family members in the therapy that your child is involved in so that you can learn alongside your child. You don't necessarily have to be present for every therapy session, you should be provided with support and guidance so that you know what you can do at home to assist your child's progress.

- The service have staff that are specially trained in the intervention programs that they are offering.

- The service should develop an individual plan for your child based on their current skill level and needs. And the staff should monitor and regularly review and update the plan based on your child's progress within the program.

- The program is designed for children with ASD. This is a must!

Early intervention is not necessarily about the number of hours that your child will be attending therapy, it is about the quality of those hours.

The intensity of therapy and support may be intense at the beginning but it will gradually decrease as your child learns and retains new skills.


We have noticed a massive change in L since beginning therapy, but in the last six months there has been a noticeable shift between L and O's ability to adapt to change and their social awareness.

Both little superheroes have always struggled socially but as L has been learning new skills on how to engage with children his own age, he is making progress faster than O is. In the past L would become upset when O didn't play with him when there were other children present. It is becoming more and more difficult for O to understand social situations, so she is now becoming upset as L will happily go off and join in play.

This change in L is in part due to the therapy that he is receiving.

I can honestly say that sending L to the early intervention centre is one of the best decisions that we have made.

11 comments:

  1. Done great points there that I was truely unaware of . I have Simone I can pass this onto :)

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  2. This is super helpful. I have a couple friends who have autistic children and they're having a really hard time. I'm going to send them this post. Thanks for putting this together to help other people. 🙏🏻

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  3. Love this post, yea I totally agree it's really important to start early. Your photos are so cute!

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  4. I love hearing your take on Early Intervention! I've worked with kids in this type of service before and I've seen what a difference it can make in their lives.

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  5. This is really helpful to moms who's child are Autistic. I love reading the post and sharing this post with one of my freing. This surely will help her. :)

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  6. thank you for this post.the fact that you shared of what you did , and this is surely going t help people sailing in the same boat

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  7. Early intervention is so important! We started early intervention with my son and it made all. The difference in the world to him... shell

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  8. I like that you emphasized that Early Intervention services aren't about changing the child. I think that's a common misconception.

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  9. Agree! Early intervention is better than cure. :)

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  10. Thank you for posting. Saving it for future reference

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