In the United States, Aspeger’s Syndrome (AS) is often not diagnosed until a child reaches school age or late elementary school so early intervention services, frequently used to help children with autism, are not utilized. As we learn more about children with AS and how symptoms show up in the early years, more children may be diagnosed earlier and parents may have the opportunity to receive services from a young age, giving their child a chance to learn skills before entering school.
What is Early Intervention?
Early Intervention (EI) is a state run program used to assist children between the ages of 0 and 3 years old and their families to help prepare children for school. A number of different services are available, depending on your child’s specific needs. Some examples of EI services include:
- Occupational therapy to help with sensory issues
- Communication and social skills training
- Speech and language therapy
- Physical therapy to help in motor skills development
If your child is eligible for EI services, your local EI team will meet with you and set up an evaluation to look at your child’s developmental progress, AS symptoms and cognitive skills. Based on this information, the team may suggest certain therapies and treatments. The EI team should include you throughout the entire process. You, as the parent, have the right to agree or disagree with the evaluation results as well as treatment options.
Services for EI are normally provided in your home; however, sometimes services are at a therapist’s office, the YMCA or other local agencies. If this is the case, you will be offered transportation to and from the treatment center.
Each child’s treatment plan is different because it is based on your child’s specific needs. Progress is reviewed on a regular basis to see whether services are working, need to be changed or if services are no longer needed.
Your doctor may notice some developmental delays or warning signs of autism/AS during normal checkups. He or she may refer you to the EI program in your area. However, as a parent you are also able to request services if you feel your child is not meeting developmental milestones. To do so, you would contact your county health department and request an evaluation. You do not need a doctor’s referral. The difference is that, when your doctor refers you to the EI program, he will submit a referral form with a diagnosis. If you call, you may not have a diagnosis; the evaluation process will then include an assessment for AS or autism.
Each child’s treatment plan is different because it is based on your child’s specific needs. Progress is reviewed on a regular basis to see whether services are working, need to be changed or if services are no longer needed. You should be included in any meetings to discuss your child’s progress and treatment. Any changes to the program will need to be approved by you.
Normally, one person within the county will oversee and be responsible for implementing and coordinating the treatment program. If you have any questions or concerns, this is the person you should contact.
As the parent, you have the right to be present during any therapy. You can also ask therapists to teach you exercises that you can do in between sessions to help your child. The more involved you are, the more you will be able to understand what is going on, watch for signs of progress and help in creating future treatment programs. If any therapist is hesitant or refuses to include you, speak with your county coordinator.
Once your child reaches 3 years old, services, if needed, will be continued by the public school system. Prior to your child’s 3rd birthday, your county coordinator will talk with you about the transfer and help you with the transition. Be sure to ask questions about anything you don’t understand or agree with. Remember, your child will benefit the most if you are involved in the entire process.
Adapted from The Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome, 2012, Eileen Bailey and Robert Montgomery, Penguin Books, New York
Published On: July 17, 2012