A basic rule for treating autism is the earlier the intervention, the better. The coordinated, structured services provided by hundreds of Easter Seals early intervention programs across the country, help preschool children with autism learn skills they’ll need to be successful in school.
Easter Seals' Child Development Center Network is the largest provider of inclusive child care in the United States. With more than 90 centers across the nation, Easter Seals provides personalized, appropriate treatment plans that use play and language to take into account the "whole child" and the child’s family.
Many different intervention strategies are used to educate individuals with autism. The “big three” are the most commonly used methodologies:
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). An applied behavior analytic program includes an individual assessment to determine the skills that a student with autism does -- and does not -- have. Skills are then broken down into small steps and taught systematically. The goal is to help each student develop skills that will enable him or her to be as independent and successful as possible.
Developmental, Individual-Difference, Relationship-Based (DIR). The DIR/Floortime approach focuses on helping children master the building blocks of relating, communicating and thinking.
The Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH). The TEACCH system emphasizes structure by organizing the physical environment. TEACCH uses visual cues, schedules and work systems to help make expectations clear to students with autism.
The practice of inclusive child care -- placing children of all physical, emotional and academic abilities in the same learning environment -- benefits children of all abilities. Easter Seals' experience shows that children with autism significantly benefit from receiving appropriate care along side their typically developing peers. Children without disabilities benefit, too -- they learn to understand and accept differences. What’s more, the experience replicates what children will find later in life.
Following guidelines from the National Institute of Mental Health, Easter Seals inclusive child care centers feature treatment programs that:
Read Easter Seals' suggestions for how to choose an early intervention provider.
Communication and socialization are two of the core challenges for children with autism. A child with autism can learn to use symbols, aids, strategies and techniques to enhance communication. Easter Seals can provide a treatment plan to promote effective communication.
A variety of diverse training techniques -- including group and direct instruction -- assist children with autism in learning to recognize social cues and to communicate and participate successfully in social situations. As with the other treatments, this training will vary depending on individual need.
With the help of Easter Seals professionals, family members can also play an integral role in supporting individuals with autism to become more independent.
Many children with autism are unable to respond to social cues. This lack of “social reciprocity” can significantly increase the stress level in a family. In fact, families living with autism experience greater stress than those living with any other disability (Sources: Bromley, Hare, Davison, & Emerson, 2005; Dumas, Wolf, Fisman and Colugun, 1991; and, Holyrode and MacArthur, 1976).
Families can find a break, or “respite” by having a professional come to the home to provide support services or enrolling a child in a day or weekend program. This allows the parents to partake in recreational, social or other important activities with siblings or with each other. Learn more about Easter Seals' respite, recreation and camp programs.
Educators at Easter Seals inclusive child care centers use specialized approaches and instruction to prepare preschoolers with autism for entry into the school system. A preschool curriculum that promotes school readiness through social skill development, independent living skills and personal responsibility teaches preschool children the skills that are vital for future success in school.