Therapy makes a dramatic difference for children with autism at any age by helping them overcome their autism challenges and learn essential life and learning skills.
However, early intervention does a remarkable job of setting children up for success as they confront the new demands of school and increasing social expectations.
Our THINK Neurology for Kids team — Shaun S. Varghese, MD, Cristina R. Marchesano, MD, Lorena Herbert, MD, Barbara Kiersz-Mueller, DO, Lauren Weaver, MD, Alicia Walls, MD, Sundeep Mandava, MD, Jennifer E. Martin, CPNP-PC, Tammy DeLaGarza, FNP-C, Robby Korah, FNP-C, Una Childers, PA-C, MPAS, and Heather King, CPNP-PC — warmly welcomes children with autism at every stage of their journey.
We work closely with autistic children and their families, whether parents are worried about early autism signs, need an autism evaluation, want personalized treatment, or would like recommendations for home, school, and community support.
Early intervention defined
Early intervention is personalized therapy that typically begins around age two or three but could start earlier. Each child’s early intervention program teaches essential skills they lack because of autism and provides therapy targeting their unique autism-related challenges.
We can diagnose autism by age two in most children. However, autism is typically diagnosed between three to five years, and unfortunately, nearly one-third of those with autism aren’t diagnosed until age eight or later.
Detect autism at an early age
Autism signs are noticeable before their first birthday in some children. The signs become noticeable for others as they reach three and enter preschool.
The best way to recognize autism is by learning its early signs. You may notice some of the following:
By six months, your child:
- Seldom smiles
- Doesn’t show joyful, engaging expressions
- Has limited or no eye contact
By nine months, your child:
- Doesn’t respond to their name
- Doesn’t make sounds, smiles, or facial expression in response to your voice and expressions
By 12 months, your child:
- Has little to no babbling
- Speaks few or no words
- Doesn’t play interactive games like pattycake
- Has little to no back-and-forth gestures (pointing, waving, reaching, and others)
By 24 months, your child:
- Expresses few or no meaningful two-word phrases (besides imitating or repeating)
At any age, you should seek autism screening if you notice your child:
- Loses speech, babbling, or social skills they acquire
- Doesn’t reach language milestones
- Repeats words or phrases
- Avoids eye contact
- Prefers solitude (doesn’t like playing with other children)
- Has limited interests (they may play with one toy or repeatedly watch the same show)
- Engages in repetitive behaviors (flapping hand, spinning, and rocking)
- Resists small changes in their surroundings or routine
- Has unusually intense reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights, or colors
- Doesn’t understand other people’s feelings or thoughts
It’s also essential to keep well-child visits so your pediatrician can routinely screen for possible developmental problems.
Benefits of early intervention
Early intervention requires an early diagnosis, an essential step for identifying your child’s needs and finding direction for the type of program and support they may need.
Children usually make substantial progress with early intervention because their brain grows rapidly in the first few years. At birth, a baby’s brain is about one-fourth the size of the average adult brain. Their brain reaches 80% of its adult size by three and 90% by age five.
This early brain growth occurs as new neural connections develop, increasing nerve communication. Children have about ten times more neuron connections by age three than they had at birth, which means their brains are incredibly adaptable during their early years.
Changes in brain development occur in response to a child’s relationships, environment, and experiences, including therapy provided through early intervention programs.
Early intervention makes children better prepared to communicate, socialize, and learn in school. They gain skills that help them focus and thrive each day, such as learning to overcome sensory overload and managing strong emotions like anger.
Despite the importance of early intervention, you should know that the human brain continuously learns and grows new nerve connections throughout your child’s lifetime.
Starting autism intervention at any age significantly improves their skills, abilities, and quality of life.
If you have any questions or concerns about autism symptoms in your child, don’t hesitate to reach out to THINK Neurology for Kids. Call the office in The Woodlands, Katy, Sugar Land, Lakeway, or Lake Jackson, Texas, today, or connect online to request an appointment.