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

Play builds child development

5 Ways Play Builds Child Development

Our Fort Myers occupational therapists often refer to play as the occupation of children. It may look on the surface as if all we do at our clinic is have fun. (And we DO have TONS of fun here!) But what we’re really doing is bolstering child development through play, which has proven to be the most effective way to teach children critical life skills in early intervention.

Study after study has proven time and again that children learn best through play – when it’s fun!

“There’s a reason our pediatric therapists never approach a session with a child saying, ‘Ok, let’s go do some therapy,'” explained FOCUS Therapy Owner/Founder Jennifer Voltz-Ronco. “No, we say, ‘Let’s go play!’ Because we know that creating a fun, safe, upbeat environment is going to make them want to participate, want to take the next step, want to learn the new skill. Ultimately, that’s where we make the most gains. Those are the lessons that are going to stick.”

Here, we offer some basics on how child development is promoted by simple activities that involve play.

FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Play in Early Childhood: The Role of Play in Any Setting, Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University

More Blog Entries:

FOCUS Therapy Hires Therapists Who Genuinely Care, March 3, 2022, FOCUS Therapy Fort Myers Blog

Fort Myers speech therapy

Fort Myers Speech Therapy for Preemies With Speech & Language Delays

Preterm babies, often called “preemies,” are at higher risk of speech and language delays as they develop, compared to babies born full-term. Approximately 1 in 10 babies in the U.S. is born too early, according to the March of Dimes. Our Fort Myers speech therapy team strongly recommends that parents of babies born prior to 37 weeks gestation keep a close eye on every developmental milestone, and seek early intervention therapies to assist where delays are noted.

“We’re so lucky to be living in an age where medical advancements provide even babies born extremely preterm with a good shot at survival,” said FOCUS Therapy Owner/Founder Jennifer Voltz-Ronco. “Although many preemies go on to develop normally, many do benefit from extra help – particularly in the form of early intervention speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and feeding/swallowing therapy.”

A 2018 study published in the journal Medicine revealed babies born preterm tend to have smaller vocabular at age 3 compared to their full-term peers. They also develop gestures, words, and language understanding at a slower rate than full-term babies. This gap in language skills can expand and continue through childhood, particularly if it’s not treated.

Brain research development shows us time and again that language learning begins at birth, with the window between 6 and 24 months being a golden opportunity to maximize the brain’s neuroplasticity and support development of early communication skills.

Fort Myers speech therapy

Many babies born prematurely benefit from these therapies up to age 5 (sometimes beyond), with early intervention reducing the struggles they will face as they get older. As time goes on, the delays become less noticeable, with many preemies going on to engage in academics, arts, and athletics at the same level as their peers. Many of our preemie patients later succeed to the point you would never know they were born early unless they told you.