autism early intervention therapy

Study: Less than 1/2 Kids With Autism Undergo Early Intervention Therapy

Early intervention therapy for autism is crucial to optimal long-term outcomes for children on the spectrum. “Early intervention,” defined as a combination of speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, nutrition/feeding therapy, and ABA therapy, should ideally begin before age 3 to be the most effective. Yet a new study found that more than 50 percent of children with autism do NOT get the critical early intervention that has been proven to lay the foundation for yielding the best sustained results.

Researchers at Rutgers University analyzed the early intervention participation of kids with autism in one state, and found less than half were receiving early intervention therapies before turning 3.

The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, revealed income and racial disparities unfortunately played a role in how likely children were to have access to early intervention. Study authors opined that the issue was likely worse in other states.

As our FOCUS Therapy Fort Myers team understands it, the researchers analyzed data from the New Jersey Autism Study, a monitoring system that was set up by the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, focusing on the records of some 23,000 kids. They identified approximately 4,000 8-year-olds diagnosed with autism. Of those, only 1,890 of them had participated in early intervention therapy services. This was true even though these services are required by federal law under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

To identify where the disparities were most prominent, the team analyzed information on wealth indicators (median household income, primarily) and discovered that kids who lived in areas with higher incomes were 80 percent more likely to have access to early intervention autism services than kids who lived in lower-income neighborhoods. They also learned that Black and Hispanic children were less likely to enroll in these services compared to their white counterparts.

Study authors stressed that understanding socioeconomic and cultural barriers to both early diagnosis and these essential therapy services are important components of helping improve education and access.

Early Intervention Therapy Key to Addressing Child Development Concerns

Early intervention therapy can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to learn new skills and increase their success in school and in life. The unequivocal truth is that the earlier intervention is initiated in a child’s life, the more effective it’s going to be.

It’s because the connections in a child’s brain are most adaptable in those first three years of life. We call these “neural circuits” or “neural pathways.” They’re the foundations for learning, behavior, and health. the older a person gets, the tougher these neural circuits are to change.

“For example, if it’s autism, waiting for a kid to ‘catch up on his own’ simply isn’t going to work,” explained FOCUS Therapy Owner/Founder Jennifer Voltz-Ronco. “Acting early is going to help a child communicate, play, and learn from the world now – which helps prepare them for the future. It’s also going to help address and prevent the frustration that is so common among kids with communication difficulties. It helps us prevent that from turning into more difficult behaviors.”

So if we want a child to reach their personal maximum potential, we must start as early as possible.

FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, feeding therapy, and behavior/ABA therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Information:

Why Act Early if You’re Concerned About Development? U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

More Blog Entries:

Our Favorite Sensory Gym Equipment for Kids With Disabilities & Delays, Feb. 7, 2022, FOCUS Therapy Fort Myers Blog

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