The Early Intervention and Evaluations Process for Children with Autism
By Dr. Rebecca Sierra, M.D.
Early detection of autism is critical for the best developmental outcomes for children. This often begins in the pediatrician’s office at scheduled well child appointments. Beginning at birth, the pediatrician or family physician monitors the child’s progression through developmental milestones and many offices offer an autism screening questionnaire (MCHAT) at some point between 16 and 30 months of age (often 18 and 24 months). If a child is showing delays in development in any area, a physician may decide to refer him/her for Early Intervention (EI) services. This is a program managed by the state which provides free screening for developmental delays in children under 3 years of age.
Once referred to EI, a multispecialty evaluation will take place to assess delays in many areas including speech, gross motor, fine motor, and feeding. If significant delays are identified, a child will be referred for therapy in those areas. If a diagnosis of autism is suspected, the child will usually be recommended to undergo a full autism evaluation. This is a comprehensive evaluation over several hours to observe how the child functions in all areas of development. At the end of this evaluation, a formal diagnosis of autism or an autism spectrum disorder may be made.
After reaching a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder, individual therapies targeted toward the child’s needs will be arranged through Early Intervention. These therapies and services continue until the child’s third birthday, at which time he/she will age out of EI and will begin to receive therapies through the public school district instead. Many families may choose to undergo additional private therapies as well, depending on resources in their area and insurance coverage for such therapies.
If you would like to learn more about ABA therapy, an evidence based therapy for autism, visit a.c.e Therapies or call 708-792-0162 to speak directly to the owner, Cindy Mrotek