Early Intervention With Autism


The number of children diagnosed with some form of autism has been skyrocketing. Several drugs are helpful in treating behavioral symptoms that come with the disorders. Dr. Dean Edell reports on a drug-free treatment that changes lives.
When you see five-year-old Sarah Beard today, you’d never guess this was her a year ago. Her life was filled with tantrums and rituals, methodically lining up toys and spinning in circles. She’d scream at her own birthday parties if anyone sang happy birthday. Today, that old Sarah is hard to find.

Sarah Beard, 5 years old: “Myself is something who is the personality, and I am a special person of ‘anality.’”

Sarah was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, at two. Mom Colleen says that early diagnosis changed her little girl.

Colleen Beard, Sarah’s mom: “The amount of progress she has made — she’s a different girl today than she was 14 months ago.”

Autism expert Catherine Lord says early diagnosis leads to life-changing interventions.

Catherine Lord, Ph.D., psychologist: “It’s been truly wonderful to see how many things people with autism can do and things that we would not have probably dreamed about 20 or 30 years ago.”

Therapy focuses on completion of tasks and social interaction. Experts believed half of autistic kids would never speak. With early intervention, Dr. Lord found only 14 percent won’t.

Dr. Lord: “It’s not what you have done in a day, but what you know, it leads into something that is really going to change children’s lives.”

Sarah remembers how she used to behave.

Sarah: “It feels like I screamed a lot.”

But she doesn’t dwell on it.

Sarah: “No, I’m not afraid anymore.”

And this year she even let her family sing her happy birthday.

Asperger’s Syndrome is often called high-functioning autism. Early intervention with these children may often show more results than with standard autistic kids. But experts say, the important point for any autistic children is early diagnosis and then targeted intervention specifically designed for each kid’s unique needs.

Doctors used to believe autism could not be accurately diagnosed until the child was four or five years old. Now research shows children can reliably be diagnosed as young as two, which, according to her, is the key to successful treatment.

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