Early Intervention—How early is early?
I just want to say at the very beginning just how important reaching your child early is. Getting treatment early can make a world of difference for your child. I don’t work for any early intervention system so I’m not getting paid to say this! It comes from a very personal experience with early intervention and I truly believe that the earlier we can reach children, the better off we all are. Is any early intervention system perfect? Heck no! Just like any other system, there are good points and bad points, waiting lists and not enough therapists to go around. If you are waiting for therapy or therapists to get started or to get there period, hopefully you can find some activities, games, and strategies on this website to get you started.
I don’t intend for the information on this site to take the place of any medical intervention that might be needed or any therapeutic intervention that is out there. But, I do want you to look at everything that’s listed in this site as something to try, something to do on top of doing a treatment that fits your child and your situation. Every single child on the spectrum is different and needs to be treated as such. Every single family living on the spectrum is different and needs to adjust and cope in very different ways. If something on this site doesn’t exactly match what your family does, or your child needs, modify it, adjust it, tweak it until it does.
Can you do everything on this site all at once? Not exactly. Eventually it can be tied together in an integrative little system I think of as teachable moments, but it won’t happen all at once. You may try something and it absolutely doesn’t work, and you move on. Just remember, some things take repetitive exposure and some things you may just need to come back to at a later time, and some things just aren’t gonna work.
So what does the ‘early’ in early intervention really mean? Early intervention programs are generally from 0 through 2 (ending on your child’s 3rd birthday). I watched CNN this morning and the series they are currently running with Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Autism. I disagreed with the statement Dr. Gupta made about needing / getting a diagnosis of autism before starting early intervention services which meant services didn’t usually start until after a child was 2 all the way through 5 years of age. This is so not the case. Anyone can call early intervention and ask for an evaluation—you do NOT need to have a diagnosis to get an evaluation and / or services through early intervention. Of course, it makes the process easier and faster if you do but it is NOT required to get help.
Early intervention will come to your house based solely off your concerns as a parent, grandparent, friend, daycare provider or whomever. If you have a young child or a very young child who is having difficulty with ANYTHING, whether that be speech, playing, physical milestones like walking, crawling, climbing steps, sensory integration issues, you can call early intervention at any time to have your child evaluated.
The earlier you can begin interventions or therapy the better the brain is able to make new connections and re-wire itself if possible. Each year, each month, each day counts when were talking about getting early intervention. I think the new ad campaign is something like what you would see for adults with strokes—time lost is brain lost. It’s something similar here—the earlier you can teach children coping skills or functional ways to interact the better off everyone is. Are you going to cure autism by doing this? No—autism is not something at this point and time that can be cured. What you are really providing for your child is the ability to adapt and to cope with situations and to interact more appropriately all while still living with autism.
For those of you who are concerned about labeling you child by starting early intervention services, my advice is, don’t be. You are not obligated to continue into the school district for services at 3 nor are you required to cubby hole your child into a label or diagnosis. What you are obligated to do as parent, is to provide your child with the best possible start into life as you can. Teaching your child valuable coping skills, adaptive behaviors, and functional ways to approach life is THE best early intervention you can do.