Time to Intervene?
A New York Times’ article on autism highlighted the challenges of obtaining an early diagnosis and treatment for parents who are facing a second child who is at risk for ASD. The story follows a family who has a diagnosed 5 year old son and a 7 month old baby boy who is showing signs of departing from a normal developmental trajectory, especially his interactions with other people.
The story is an excellent portrayal of the challenges and successes of a family living with autism and features two scientists engaged in the Autism Speaks’ High Risk Baby Siblings Research Consortium, Sally Rogers, Ph.D. and Sally Ozonoff, Ph.D. The ability to distinguish autism from variations in development that lead to an otherwise normal outcome is limited at the early ages, but research is finding new ways to identify the earliest signs of autism risk. Since the best bet for a good outcome is early, intensive behavioral intervention, identifying these early signs are extremely valuable.
The story highlights the Early Start Denver Model, an intervention approach developed by Rogers and Geraldine Dawson, Autism Speaks’ Chief Science Officer. This intervention method, which was evaluated in a controlled trial, can be used with children at risk for ASD as young as 12 months of age.
While early intervention methods for toddlers with ASD are becoming increasingly available, there are still many families that have difficulty accessing early intervention services. Autism Speaks is working to disseminate research that has been established as best practices while simultaneously pressing for more research in needed areas. Our partnership with the Early Autism Risk Longitudinal Investigation (EARLI) has helped to broaden the participation and scope of this important study of early risk factors. In terms of intervention, Autism Speaks’ support of the Toddler Treatment Network is focused on both the dissemination and further research needs in young children identified with autism. At the same time, our continued advocacy for ending insurance discrimination for behavioral health services for children with autism (www.autismvotes.org ) is essential to our goal of providing every child with autism the services they need and deserve.
By strategically investing our scientific resources in areas of need and advocating for families, Autism Speaks seeks to improve the outcomes for those struggling with ASD today and to lessen the struggles for those who will be diagnosed tomorrow.