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How can early intervention help my toddler's autism?

How can early intervention help a toddler with autism?
Submitted by Parents Team

There is no known cure for autism, but intensive early therapy helps a child learn a wide range of skills -- from making eye contact to hugging to having a conversation. And the sooner a child begins, the better. Experts suggest that children receive 25 hours of therapy per week as soon as autism is suspected and once a firm diagnosis is made, that number should increase to between 25 and 40 hours depending on the severity of the condition. Most intervention programs include a combination of direct therapies from teachers and professionals, as well as working with your child at home on a daily basis, and in some cases attending a regular preschool.

With the help of early intervention, some autistic children are able to make amazing progress and significantly lessen the severity of their symptoms. Research shows that today almost 80 percent of kids with autism now have some speech by age 9, whereas only 50 percent of these kids were talking 20 years ago. And though past research suggests that most autistic children have below-average cognitive abilities, a recent study found that early treatment raised children's IQ scores by about 20 points, to almost normal levels. Those who started therapy as toddlers were also more likely to attend regular kindergarten. --Jan Sheehan

Copyright 2004. Reprinted with permission from the July 2004 issue of Parents magazine. Updated 2009

The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.

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Early Intervention is crucial for special needs children. It helps them to develop appropriate responses, fine and gross motor skills, speech and social skills. For children like this, these skills do not come naturally and can make it near impossible for them to succeed in school and socialize properly with others. It really is in your child's best interest to follow through with everything the Occupational therapist and the other tell you to do.
Submitted by el_loco.tortuga