Six in 1000 children are autistic. Since autism can delay important markers in learning it is very important that it is disgnosed as early as possible. The following are some signs of autism in very young children: * does not display behaviors of babbling * at 16 months old cannot speak a word * does not respond to name * doesnt smile * has trouble learning how to play
Autism is best detected as early as possible, but can be difficult to diagnose in a toddler. Also it really depends where on the spectrum the child is. The more severe the autism, the more likely there would be an early intervention, but a high functioning autistic child may simply be seen as a more difficult to control child. There is a study at the University of Washington studying early intervention with toddlers 18 months old and in this case the intervention is mostly done at the child’s home. It would begin with observing the child and working with listening, understanding, and motor skills.
A follow-up article was done on the study noted by shatkin that had extremely positive results. Small children, those aged 18 to 30 months, were randomly assigned to receive specialized behavior treatment (researchers are calling it Early Start Denver). The treatment consisted of mostly behavior modification therapy focusing primarily on social interaction and communication (two hot spots for autistic children). Example therapy exercises included holding an object of interest in front of the child’s face to encourage the child to make eye contact or giving small rewards for using words instead of non-verbal gestures when asking for an item the child wants.
A specialized group of children met 5 days a week for 4 hours daily with treatment specialists and then had additional exercises to complete at home.
At the end of two years, IQ improved 18 points in the specialized group (vs. 7 points in the other groups) and almost 30% in the specialized group were re-diagnosed with a less severe diagnosis (vs. 5% in the other groups).
Although no children were considered cured, researchers at UCSD believe that the earlier the diagnosis the better because early intervention/treatment really does and will pay off.
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