A basic rule for treating Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the earlier the intervention, the better. The coordinated, structured services provided by hundreds of Easterseals early intervention programs across the country help preschool children with ASD learn skills they’ll need to be successful in school.
Easterseals' Child Development Center Network is the largest provider of inclusive child care in the United States. With more than 90 centers across the nation, Easterseals 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 ASD. 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 ASD 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 ASD.
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. Easterseals' experience shows that children with ASD significantly benefit from receiving appropriate care alongside 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, Easterseals inclusive child care centers feature treatment programs that:
Read Easterseals' suggestions for how to choose an early intervention provider.
Communication and socialization are two of the core challenges for children with ASD. A child with ASD can learn to use symbols, aids, strategies and techniques to enhance communication. Easterseals can provide a treatment plan to promote effective communication.
A variety of diverse training techniques -- including group and direct instruction -- assist children with ASD 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 Easterseals professionals, family members can also play an integral role in supporting individuals with autism to become more independent.
Many children with ASD 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 ASD 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 Easterseals' respite, recreation and camp programs.
Educators at Easterseals inclusive child care centers use specialized approaches and instruction to prepare preschoolers with ASD 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.