As autism awareness around the country continues to improve, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis rates are rapidly climbing, especially among young children. An early diagnosis of autism encourages families to access necessary resources as soon as possible. One essential benefit of an early diagnosis is the child’s opportunity to access early intervention services.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), an evidence-based intervention, helps children with autism learn important social, academic, and safety skills that they may otherwise have difficulty learning. Experts say the earlier a child with autism begins these services, the better they learn the skills.
“Language and communication skills develop faster the younger a child is,” said Emma Keicher, lead behavior analyst at the Thompson Center. “The sooner we can start teaching a child, the easier it is for them to learn appropriate social communication skills. It is equally important to receive an early diagnosis as it is to begin behavior therapy early. The sooner a child receives services, the better prepared they are to be success across all domains of their life.” Keicher also says that early intervention has the potential to prevent severe problem behaviors, such as self-injury, from occurring later in life for individuals who have an autism diagnosis.
To help children with autism develop vital social communication skills early in life, the Thompson Center offers the Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) clinic as a part of their Applied Behavioral Intervention Services. The EIBI clinic is an ABA clinic focused on the development of young children who have recently received an autism diagnosis. Children between the ages of 18 months to eight years are eligible for this intensive one-on-one service, that is individualized specifically for each child’s needs.
“The EIBI clinic specializes on building important skills, such as listening and following directions,” Keicher said. “Most typically developing children naturally learn these skills in their day-to-day interactions with others, but children with autism often require special interventions to understand and exhibit these behaviors. The earlier we can begin teaching our children with autism, the easier it is for them to learn these important skills. It prepares them to be successful in school and other social settings throughout their daily lives.”
Participation in the EIBI clinic includes a behavior assessment, the development of an individualized treatment plan, education for parents and caregivers on how to implement the treatment plan at home, communication with schools and teachers, and individualized one-on-one intervention services. A minimum of eight hours of therapy per week is required for the services to be effective, though based on a child’s needs, more time may be advised. Health insurance often covers part or most of ABA services. To learn more about the Thompson Center’s EIBI or other ABA services, call 573-884-4660 or email MannM@missouri.edu.