October 6, 2021

The Benefits of Early Intervention ABA Therapy for Children With ASD

Three benefits of ABA Therapy for children with ASD

Key takeaways:

  • It’s possible to spot signs of ASD as early as 18 months.
  • Babies and toddlers with ASD show differences in social and language skills.
  • There may be behavioral differences in children with ASD.
  • Early signs of ASD fall into three categories: social, communication, and behavioral.
  • Early Intervention with ABA Therapy can help children with ASD improve developmentally.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects approximately 1 in 54 children in the U.S. across ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Whether the number of children affected is increasing – or we’re simply better at identifying ASD at an earlier age – it is clear that Early Intervention is essential to helping children develop.

ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) Therapy is a critical early intervention tool for children with ASD. ABA works toward decreasing challenging behavior and preparing a child to enter group learning as school approaches. We talk about early signs that your child might have ASD and the importance of early intervention with ABA Therapy.

Increasing awareness

We’ve learned a lot about ASD in the last few decades. Due to more awareness, we now understand that it’s possible to spot signs of autism in children 18 months and younger. Most children can be diagnosed by age two, which is earlier than previously assumed.

“Many children with autism spectrum disorder show developmental differences when they are babies – especially in their social and language skills,” according to HealthyChildren.org.

Along with physical signs and speech delays, it’s also possible to notice behavioral differences, even in very young children.

How to recognize signs of ASD

Early signs of autism fall into one of three categories: social, communication, and behavioral. These differences can vary widely, depending on the child and the severity of his/her form of ASD.

Social differences:

  • Failure to maintain eye contact
  • Lack of response to smiling/facial expressions
  • Inappropriate facial expressions
  • Difficulty reading facial expressions
  • Not looking at objects when they are pointed out
  • Not pointing out objects
  • Less likely to show empathy

Communication differences:

  • No single words by 15 months or 2-word phrases by 24 months
  • Less likely to share
  • Repeats words but doesn’t seem to understand the meaning
  • Doesn’t respond to his/her name
  • Lack of interest in communicating
  • Less likely to use toys/objects during play
  • May lose language or other social skills between 15 months-2 years

Behavioral differences:

  • Rocks, spins, twirls fingers, flaps hands
  • Walks on toes for a long time
  • Likes routines and has trouble with change or transition to new activities
  • Can become obsessed with a particular object or interest
  • Repeats activities continually
  • Overly sensitive or not sensitive at all to smell, sound, light, texture, or touch

If you notice these signs in your child, it may not be cause for concern. It’s best, however, to take your child to see their pediatrician for a diagnostic evaluation. You can also bring him or her into Lumiere Children’s Therapy for a professional evaluation.

ABA Therapy 

ABA Therapy is a common form of therapy for children on the autism spectrum. It’s designed to help children learn new skills, improve social and communication skills, and encourage positive behaviors.

ABA Therapy includes seven basic goals:

  1. Identify the behaviors you want to change
  2. Set goals and outcomes
  3. Determine how to measure progress and improvements
  4. Evaluate where your child is at the outset of therapy
  5. Help your child learn new skills and coping mechanisms to avoid challenging behaviors
  6. Review your child’s progress over time
  7. Determine if further therapy is necessary

ABA Therapists will evaluate your child and then develop a plan to improve social, communication, and behavioral skills. Parents, family members, caregivers, and teachers may also receive training so the lessons can be reinforced at home and school.

Benefits of early intervention with ABA Therapy 

Doctors and therapists now recognize the importance of early intervention when it comes to ASD. Why does it matter so much? Here are three of the main benefits.

1. Neuroplasticity 

The main benefit comes down to something called neuroplasticity which refers to the brain’s ability to adapt and change based on what it experiences. When working with ASD, early intervention means there’s a better chance of changing or enhancing a child’s brain development.

In some cases, this can prevent challenging behaviors from becoming habits. There’s also a better chance that children with ASD will be better prepared to start school.

2. Learn play skills

Typically, developing children learn to play by watching others naturally. Children on the autism spectrum, however, need to be taught how to learn from others. Often, children with ASD don’t prefer to interact and imitate in the same way and are often too engrossed in objects/activities of interest to notice others playing.

Children with ASD can be taught play and social skills by breaking down the elements and repeating them until each step is mastered. Depending on the complexity of the skill, this can take a long time, requiring many hours (and years) of therapy.

3. ABA Therapy can help a child “catch up” to their peers

A landmark study by Dr. Ivar Lovaas showed that around 50% of children who engaged in intensive ABA Therapy were able to “catch up” to average ranges in intellectual and educational function. The children in the Lovaas study received about 40 hours of therapy in the first two years, followed by a steady decrease in hours over the next two years.

More recent studies suggest early intervention may be even more beneficial. In fact, children who receive intensive therapy may move higher on the ASD scale (which is a big improvement) and some (around 20%) are even able to move out of the spectrum.

Talk to us about starting ABA Therapy

Your child’s behavior can impact his or her life in numerous ways, both at school and with family members or friends. ABA Therapy at Lumiere Children’s Therapy can help your child learn positive behavior while teaching you how to reinforce those lessons at home.

Lumiere Children’s Therapy also provides other comprehensive therapies so children with a wide range of physical, emotional, and developmental conditions can achieve traditional milestones.

Our services include:

  • Speech therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Developmental therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Social work
  • Augmentative alternative communication
  • Early intervention
  • Teletherapy

Lumiere Children’s Therapy is a full-service, multidisciplinary pediatric therapy practice located in Chicago that serves the developmental needs of children from birth to 18 years of age. Learn more about how our team of clinicians works to improve the lives of children and their families.

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