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Effectiveness Of Early Childhood Interventions For Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Updated on December 19, 2014
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty uses advanced degrees in preventive medicine and health psychology in research and treatment for public and private health agencies.


The American Psychological Association Reports Hopeful Findings

An acquaintance of mine who pastors a large church was informed on the day of his son's birth that the infant had "autism", based on the child's lack of responsiveness. Refusing to institutionalize the infant in a facility such as a psychiatric hospital, the pastor took his son and wife home and raised the child alongside the couple's young daughter in the 1990s.

During the first 6 years of the boy's life, the large extended family and many members of the church congregation visited to interact with the child. The boy was taken to church three times a week as well, to spend time with the infant caregivers and even to be held by his mom in the services. Gradually, he began to respond.

I don't know what drove all those people to interact with the boy, but by age 7, he began to show many signs of improvement.

The lad was diagnosed with Asperger's and continued to improve with the constant interaction he experienced with others - hundreds of others. In grades K-12, he was a straight-A student in regular classes. In his senior year, he showed almost no signs of any Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), except for one minor physical manifestation that disappeared before his high school graduation. In the 2010s, he graduated from Ohio University.

Not all hopeless severe cases are hopeless.

4th QTR 2012: CDC estimates 1 in 88 children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Track your child's development and act early if you have a concern.

The constant and productive interaction provided by others to the young man from the time of his birth, onward, helped to improve his condition; and coincidentally, scientists have found that this is one of the best interventions for early-diagnosis ASD.

The trick is to find ASD fast and to bombard the child with good interactions that involve the senses and include talking to the child, singing, reading to him/her, telling the child stories, giving hugs, and many more elements that scientists have organized into several protocols of intervention. They all seem to work. The important need is to have one of the protocols set into motion as early as possible and kept going. Usually, the older the child at diagnosis and first intervention, the lesser and fewer are the positive results. However, there is still new hope for older children and even adults with ASD.

It has been parents and families (like those of Oregon) that have done much of the work in finding methods of recognizing, managing and improving ASD, and science has begun to catch up with them. The American Psychological Association presents many of the associated results in an article in the October 2012 issue of the APA Monitor On Psychology Vol. 43, No. 9; entitled "Catching Autism Earlier", by Eve Glicksman. The findings are incredible and hopeful.


We know that a child's nervous system is "not done yet" at birth and that it continues to develop to adulthood, and even further develops thereafter. Exercise and human interaction can help many infants and adults to progress mentally; in adults, these activities (along with computer use) can stave off some dementias. This is the importance of keeping exercise, arts, and music in our schools and communities.


Thoughts On White Matter

Changes in the brain's white matter in an infant of only 3 months can indicate future ASD. Interaction-based treatment can prevent this ASD. White matter grows again in middle age, allowing healthy adults to make more connections between and among pieces of information learned. ASD might prevent some of those connections in adults, so white matter is important, even at birth, and for the duration of the lifespan.

An Early Intervention Cure

Back in 2007, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended to pediatricians that all infants and toddlers ages 18- and 24-months should be screened for autism; and, that although there were hopeful treatment methods, the condition was incurable.Form 2007 - 2012, we have found that this is not the case. Rather, children should be screened at 6 months and 1 year of age and if parents see signs of autism earlier than 6 months, they need to seek help immediately. Immediately therapy similar to that given to the young man discussed at the head of this article can eliminate signs of autism in most by age 5 if diagnosis is made before the 18-month mark, according to autism researchers and physicians. However, older children that are diagnosed can still experience some improvement, and this is also true for adults with ASD.

Further, the medical community finds tat measuring a baby's brain activity as at 3 and 6 months might identify changes (differences in the white matter of the brain) leading toward autism before changes in child's behavior occur.

Even if the child does not actually have ASD, the interaction therapy raises the IQ and learning abilities of children. The key to success is committed parent interaction, sticking to the required protocol, for several hours a week. It takes a lot of time and parental input.

Diagnosis and Help

New Research About Cause and Actions

Up until the 1950s and 1960s in America, the mothers of infants were blamed for any irregularities in their children's births. This included gender (e.g., spouse wanted a boy and a girl was born), developmental delays and mental retardation, missing limbs and other birth defects, and any other concerns related to the infant. Most of this has fallen by the wayside and we know that it is the dads that determine the physical gender of the infant, boy or girl.

However, advancing maternal age is a risk factor in a number of conditions in infants, such as Down Syndrome. At the same time, advancing age of the father can contribute to these conditions. In fact, the father's advancing age might be a prominent cause of autism and does contribute to other conditions in offspring, related to the degeneration of the genetic material in sperm. Between 15-20% of all autistic children experience a genetic mutation, but heredity and environmental factors seem to combine to cause other cases.

The finding that most surprises parents is that the "advancing age" begins between ages 25 to 29 for men. A list of prominent causes for ASD include those discussed by Ms. Glickman:

  • Advanced age of the father (Nature, Stef├ínsson, et al. 2012).
  • Infant is low birth weight (LBW) or infant is small for gestational age (Journal of Pediatrics, Lampi, 2012, and Pediatrics, Pinto-Martin, 2011).
  • Inadequate intake of folic acid by mothers before infant is conceived (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Schmidt, et al. 2012).
  • Mothers have been exposed to pesticides and/or air pollution (Environmental Health Perspective, Shelton, et al. 2012 and Volk, et al. 2011).
  • Mother is not only overweight, but clinically obese (Pediatrics, Krakowiak, et al. 2012).

Read more about causes in the link below.


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