The importance of early intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is widely recognized and supported by research. Our environment supports the immersion of toddlers and preschoolers in age-typical settings at the earliest suspicion of developmental, social, or language delays or ASD. Most toddlers and preschoolers learn through exploration, play, and social interaction. For the toddler or preschooler with ASD, learning is impeded and delays may become more prominent.
The core deficits of ASD are in the areas of social skills and language/communication. Our 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, intensive 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 literature. We recognize the importance of providing intense intervention as soon as possible, but strive 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. Programming may 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 and social skill development programs are used to reinforce learning concepts individually and facilitate planned peer interaction.