The importance of early intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is widely recognized and supported by research. CCDE supports the immersion of toddlers and preschoolers in age typical settings at the earliest suspicion of developmental delays or ASD. Most toddlers and preschoolers learn through exploration and play and social interaction. For the toddler and preschooler with ASD, learning is impeded when these avenues are closed due to social and language delays. As learning is impeded, delays become more prominent.
The core deficits of ASD are in the areas of social skills and language/communication. CCDE's philosophy holds that the most efficient and effective environments in which to remediate social and language deficits are age-typical settings with typically developing peers. Systematic, empirically-based, intense intervention is then embedded within naturally occurring social interactions, activities and routines in order to promote successful participation by children with ASD.
Delivering intervention in daycares, play groups, and preschools capitalizes on learning from typically developing peers while allowing the child with ASD to build the social foundation and skills needed for future participation in a wide range of social and learning settings. Commonly, children with ASD are unable to mediate typical environments without effective intervention, resulting in limited learning and social gains. Therefore, equally important, is ensuring that intense intervention is effectively delivered within the age-typical setting and that those in the setting are understanding and tolerant of a diverse range of learners.
The total number of hours of intervention per week recommended for toddlers and preschoolers with ASD is debated throughout the literature. CCDE recognizes the importance of providing intense intervention as early as possible, but strives to make decisions regarding the frequency and duration of intervention based on the needs of the individual child and the goals of the family. A critical factor is delivering intervention in age-typical settings as often as possible. For toddlers this might involve some hours at a center-based program, some hours during a facilitated "play date," and/or some hours at home with parents and siblings.
Supplemental home programming is used to reinforce learning concepts individually and facilitate planned peer interaction.