“Early Intervention,” according to Public Law 105-17, is: “a statewide, comprehensive, coordinated, multidisciplinary, inter-agency system that provides early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families.” Simply put, it is a range of test and services designed to intervene early in an infant or toddler’s stages of development to define a disability. Early intervention is designed and targeted for children with disabilities under age 3 and their families or caregivers.
To help make an intervention as successful as possible, programs and therapies must be individualized to each child. Because it’s a “spectrum” disorder, each child and their symptoms and manifestations will show themselves differently. Each intervention that is designed with a professional team should address the core deficits of autism spectrum: communication, social, sensory, and academic. Programs should be tailored to a family’s needs and preferences.
According to the non-profit The Autism Society, professionals and family members should consider the following components when designing an individualized intervention plan:
A curriculum that addresses deficit areas, focuses on long-term outcomes, and considers the developmental level of each child. Deficit areas include:
- Inability to attend to relevant aspects of the environment, shift attention, and imitate the language and actions of others;
- Difficulty in social interactions, including appropriate play with toys and others, and symbolic and imaginative play; and
- Difficulty with language comprehension and use, and functional communication.
- Programs that capitalize on children’s natural tendency to respond to visual structure, routines, schedules, and predictability.
- A focus on generalization and maintenance of skills, using technology such as incidental teaching approaches.
- Effective and systematic instructional approaches that utilize technology associated with Applied Behavior Analysis, including chaining, shaping, discrete trial format, and others.
- Coordinated transitions between service delivery agencies, including 0-2 programs, early intervention/preschool programs, and kindergarten environments.
- Use of technology associated with functional behavioral assessment and positive behavioral supports with a child who presents behavioral challenges.
- Family involvement, including coordination between home and involved professionals; an in-home training component; and family training and support.