1. Health
Send to a Friend via Email
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

What Is Early Intervention for Autism?

By

Updated April 13, 2009

Question: What Is Early Intervention for Autism?
If you have an infant or toddler (age range: birth to three years) with symptoms of autism, your child and your family may be eligible for early intervention services. What is early intervention for autism?
Answer: Early intervention (EI) is a program mandated by the Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Its basic purpose is to find and treat very young children who are at risk of disability or delay. Some studies suggest that early intervention services can significantly improve outcomes for children with autism -- and their families.

What makes EI tricky? It's different in every state. The federal government provides grants to each state for its programs, but outside of general requirements for access and programming in a "natural setting," the law does little to describe or define EI programs. As a result, EI can be idiosyncratic and bureaucratic. On the other hand, a good EI program is worth its weight in gold -- and research does suggest that EI can be the key to success for children on the autism spectrum.

While early intervention programs are different from state to state, the package of services available are similar -- and all are free of charge, no matter what your income. Most states provide specialized and/or inclusive preschool programs designed to build social and communication skills. Many offer standard therapies, such as speech, occupational therapy, social skills therapy, behavioral interventions, family therapy, and even Applied Behavior Analysis.

If you qualify for Medical Assistance -- and your family income is not necessarily the qualifying factor -- you may be eligible for free healthcare and one-on-one support for your child on the autism spectrum. Medical Assistance programs vary from state to state, so it's a good idea to ask for help from EI professionals in the application process.

To find out more about early intervention:

  • Start your search at Wrightslaw,a special needs education law site that describes EI's place in the legal system.
  • Next, find your state resources at National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities.
  • Finally, rather than going directly to the state institutions that handle EI, contact a parent resource center in your state for help. Explain your situation, and ask for help. Other parents are the best source of information for getting the services you need, when and as you need them!

Sources:

Hastings RP, Symes MD. "Early intensive behavioral intervention for children with autism: parental therapeutic self-efficacy." Res Dev Disabil. 2002 Sep-Oct;23(5):332-41.

Nelson HD, Nygren P, Walker M, Panoscha R. "Screening for speech and language delay in preschool children: systematic evidence review for the US Preventive Services Task Force." Pediatrics. 2006 Feb;117(2):e298-319. Review. Erratum in: Pediatrics. 2006 Jun;117(6):2336-7.

"Early Intervention Lessens Impact Of Autism." Science Daily, June 16, 2004.

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Autism Spectrum Disorders
  4. Children and Autism
  5. Early Intervention
  6. Early Intervention - Early Intervention for Autism

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.