Is It Autism? First Signs & Important Treatments

Therapies to Try

While you're waiting for a definitive diagnosis (this can take up to 6 months), the AAP recommends starting early intervention in order to take advantage of that window of opportunity before age 5. You can get a referral for early intervention while you're waiting for a diagnosis. At the very least, your child will need 15 to 20 hours of therapy weekly; 25 to 40 is better. Visit nectac.org for help finding local programs.

How much does all this cost? The price of treatment ranges from $40 to $250 an hour, and a family can spend more than $70,000 annually in services not covered by the government or insurance. Many states provide one to three hours of weekly therapy for kids up to age 3 (in some states up to age 5). And in 15 states, some treatment costs -- ranging from $20,000 to $50,000 annually -- are covered by insurance. To bring costs down, parents can learn to perform some therapy at home.

Intervention typically includes speech and occupational therapy, along with an additional therapy like Applied Behavioral Analysis. Recommended by the AAP, it teaches kids to communicate, play, and learn.

There are other therapy add-ons; contact an autism organization to determine which services your child needs. The Picture Exchange Communication System uses picture cards to build vocabulary and communication skills. Floortime and Relationship Development Intervention therapies both teach social interaction skills. And TEACCH is a school-based program.

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