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Autism and the Importance of Early Intervention


Autism is a developmental disability that is typically categorized as having deficits in the area of communication, social interaction, and play skills.  Autism is included under a larger disability known as Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD).  Autism affects 1 in 100 children each year. It is prevalent in all racial, ethnic, and socio-economic groups and is four times more likely to effect boys than girls. Autism usually appears during the first three years of life and affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of communication, social interaction, and play skills. 


When discussing autism, it is important to note that as the name indicates, it is a spectrum disorder and therefore affects each child differently.  Due to the nature of this disorder ranging from mild to severe, it is important that therapists work as part of a team, including the family, to determine the best course of treatment for the individual child. 


There are a variety of therapy approaches for working with children with autism including, but not limited to Applied Behavioral Analysis, Verbal Behavior, FloorTime, and SCERTS.  


Regardless of the approach, early intervention is vital to the success of children with autism.  Research indicates that early intervention including academic training, speech language therapy, occupational therapy and social skills training for at least two years during the preschool years can result in significant improvements for many young children with autism spectrum disorders. Therefore, it is important that parents and other professionals are aware of the early warning signs of autism and seek treatment as early as possible.


Possible areas to address include:

- following directions

- identifying and labeling vocabulary

- articulation deficits

- appropriate sentence structure

- augmentative communication systems, and social 

   interactions skills.


Apraxia or childhood apraxia of speech is a neurological disorder that affects a child's ability to plan the necessary motor movements needed for speech production.  These motor plans include specific sound production as well as the ability to blend individual sounds together to create words and sentences.  Childhood apraxia of speech affects 1 in every 100 children. 


Some warning signs of apraxia include, but are not limited to:


- difficulty or limited production of vowel sounds

- inconsistent production of sounds and words

- difficulty with multi-syllabic words, phrases and 


- difficulty producing new words or phrases without

  repeated modeling and practice,

- possible groping or visible struggling to produce sounds

  or words

- choppy, slower speech than typically developing peers