Every parent wants their child to get the best start in life. For children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), that means the earliest possible diagnosis and treatment, which isn’t always easy to obtain.

It can be particularly challenging to get a diagnosis before the age of 2 or 3. Autism is a neurological and developmental disorder. There are so many variables in how and at what pace all young children develop, so parents and even clinicians may not recognize that the behavior of a child with autism is not merely quirky or a little delayed. 

Autism impacts the way a child learns, behaves, and interacts and communicates with others. Parents can easily dismiss such symptoms as staring off into space, avoiding eye contact or repetitive movements as lack of maturity. Others may notice there is something different, but may delay seeking further evaluation.

It is crucial that parents recognize the signs and seek consultation and possible diagnosis due to the value of early intervention. One approach that can help address behaviors that interfere with communication, social interactions and appropriate behavior is called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy.

Research shows that when young children start receiving evidence-based treatments such as ABA in the early years of life, they have a much greater chance of reaching their goals, having the freedom to communicate and live more independently.

At Potential, we have the unique opportunity, through our Early Childhood Program, to make a lasting positive change in people’s lives. We can help a child improve and learn new social and communication skills, advocate for themselves to get their needs met, and address behaviors that may interfere.

“We strongly recommend that parents take note if their children are not reaching milestones at the recommended pace, and have a conversation with their physicians. They may discover their child does not have autism at all; they may just be delayed a little,” says Kristine Quinby, president and CEO of Potential.

“It’s always better to get or rule out a diagnosis as early as possible. That is the bottom line,” Kristine continues. When a child is diagnosed with autism, “we know that 25 to 40 hours a week of ABA therapy may be the best path forward, and when we provide it at an early age, the results can be profound.” 

“At Potential, we provide treatment at the appropriate level of intensity. We work with each child individually. I can’t stress that enough. We take the time to observe their behavior and adjust our interactions accordingly. For example, we don’t force eye contact; we don’t punish for stimming. We understand that when they are staring at a fan, for example, they are not merely ‘off in their own world’ and unreachable. They are just being themselves. We all have unique characteristics. This is what autism acceptance is all about.

A child with a developmental delay who begins intensive behavior intervention at an early age is more likely to be able to attend a standard kindergarten. In fact, up to 47% of children receiving early, intensive behavior intervention may be indistinguishable from their peers (by the time they enter school),” she adds.

Early Childhood Program at Potential

Potential’s comprehensive program strives to treat multiple developmental domains affected by autism, including cognitive, communicative, social, emotional and adaptive functioning. 

While service recommendations are individualized, learners enrolled in the Early Childhood Program at Potential may receive up to 40 service-hours per week to help:

  • Reduce the symptoms of autism so that the child’s behavior may become indistinguishable from their peers (by the time they enter school)
  • Increase communication
  • Decrease problem behavior
  • Learn and gain social skills
  • Address deficits in activities of daily living

With many early learners, we might work on one specific skill over an intensive, short period of time, such as toilet training, severe problem behavior or social skills. “We follow the compassionate care model of ABA, including consulting with industry experts such as Dr. Gregory Hanley on how to be safer and more dignified in our interventions,” says Kristine. “We are very transparent in all we do. There is never a time we wouldn’t welcome a visitor into our center. We believe in open observation for families as well as open communication. The environment at our center is warm, welcoming and respectful.”

We meet kids and families where they are at and provide services in the environment where help is most needed. This includes services in the home, community or the child’s school, depending upon each individual client.

“At Potential, we are family-oriented and make parents a part of the team,” adds Kristine. “That’s an important thing to look for when choosing an early learning program.”

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