Guest column: Early Intervention Critical to Treating Autism

The Eden Institute, Princeton, NJThe Eden Institute, Princeton, NJ

Photo by Robert A. Lisak

The Eden Institute, Princeton, NJThe Eden Institute, Princeton, NJ

Autism is a complex, bio-neurological disorder that generally appears before the age of 3 and is found in 1 in 110 children. It impacts communication, cognitive function, behavior and social interaction and is referred to as a "spectrum" disorder, because symptoms and behaviors can present themselves in a variety of combinations, from mild to severe.

Although progress has been made to increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and develop screening and diagnostic tools, the average age of diagnosis remains close to 5 years, higher among some minorities.

With appropriate early-intervention services, from ages 3-5, many children diagnosed with autism will be able to attend mainstream kindergarten. Early intervention also reduces the cost of care later in life.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a developmental milestone checklist (www.cdc.gov/actearly). If someone is not reaching their milestones or has lost skills they once had, it is important to act quickly. A doctor can provide a referral to see developmental pediatrician or specialist.

Florida Diagnostic and Learning Resources System (FDLRS) works with the public schools in Lee and Collier counties to assist in identification and screening of children birth to 5 years of age who are at risk of developing disabilities or learning problems (www.fdlrs.org).

Even if your child has not been diagnosed with an ASD, he or she may be eligible for early intervention services.

Eden Autism Services' (www.edenflorida.org) mission is to improve the lives of children and adults with autism and support their families by providing services to meet needs throughout the lifespan. Therapists provide 1:1 therapy utilizing Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA has been found to be successful for individuals with ASD as it encourages positive behaviors and discourages negative behaviors in order to improve a variety of skills.

Of course this intensive therapy is expensive and we hope the community will help those who cannot afford these services. You can help by volunteering at our schools in Naples and Fort Myers, attending one of our fundraising events or by making a donation. For more information call 239-992-4680, ext. 5010, or email eden.florida@edenautism.org.

Eden Autism Services Florida, founded in 1996, aims to improve the lives of children and adults with autism and provide support to their families by providing a range of community-based services to meet specific needs throughout the lifespan. These services include K-12 schools in Fort Myers and Naples, clinical services, consultations and community training, and adult residential, vocational training and employment services.

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