• New research proves the need of earlier intervention

One in 88 children is the number of U.S. children with autism. Psychologists need to understand how mental disorders manifest in people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). “The hope is that if we can improve intervention with infants and toddlers, many of them will be able to leave their disabilities behind by age 5,” says Sally J. Rogers, PhD.

Diagnosis and Assessment

Experts are finding they can now reliably diagnose ASD in children from 12 to 18 months old by looking at their social deficits or repetitive actions. Children under the age of 2 who have ASD should not be treated as a lifetime diagnosis. Delaying a diagnosis can mean giving up the significant gains of intervention that have been demonstrated before age 6. Early intervention can even prevent regression of communication and social skills in some cases.

Intervention for Young Children

ESDM-(Early Start Denver Model)-a structured teaching and relationship-based approach in the child’s home that uses play as a learning tool.

LEAP-(Learning Experiences and Alternative Program for Preschoolers and their Parents)- mixes children with ASD with typically developing preschool kids in the classroom. In this way, the ASD child has the opportunity to learn appropriate language and behavior from other kids who are taught how to interact with them. The learning program is designed so kids become engaged with activities “organically”-not through the direction of a teacher.

Causes: Prenatal Development Factors

Risk Factors:

  • Advanced age of fathers
  • Low birth weight or small gestational age
  • Deficiency in folic acid intake before conception
  • Mother’s exposure to pesticide
  • Mother’s exposure to air pollution
  • Obesity in the mother
  • Having a sibling with the condition

Early Brain Development

“A child of 11 months is too young to participate in structured behavioral therapy, but parents are in a position to help in other ways to improve emotional engagement and promote eye contact or language development through play with toys, early babbling and nonverbal gestures.”

Interventions for Older Children

When teenagers or school children get diagnosed with autism, it is a life-long condition.

Cognitive behavioral therapy combined with social skills instruction has proven successful in reducing anxiety and aggression in some high-functioning teens and adults with autism. For autistic children with intellectual disabilities, systematic desensitization was the more effective therapy for anxiety.


Glicksman, E. (2012). “Catching Autism Earlier.” Vol. 43. No. 9. Pg. 56. American Psychological Association.