At Al Jazeera America, Dr. Sarah C. Bauer writes:
Children with autism benefit from explicit instruction on communication and social skills. It is easier to do this early, even before the age of 2, preferably as soon as families are concerned.
With early detection and intervention, I have seen many children’s communication, learning, social skills and behavior improve to the point that they can function well in a general education classroom. But the older children get, the harder these skills are to teach. Maladaptive behaviors can develop. The lack of early intervention can result in increasing communication problems, behavior problems and family stress, and older children cannot typically be as easily redirected and physically removed from volatile situations as young children.
In addition, we need to encourage and incentivize individuals to pursue vocations that support the millions of individuals with autism and their families. It is important to remember that individuals with autism benefit from services throughout their lives, not just when they are young. They rely on developmental pediatricians, child psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, special education teachers, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, community partners and behavior therapists, among others.
We know that early intervention can change the developmental trajectories for many children with autism. Now we need to be able to provide it to everyone who needs it.In The Politics of Autism, I write:
Once parents get past all the red tape, they often find that providers are scarce. Rural states may be especially short on behavior analysts, who tend to prefer to work in large metropolitan areas that have greater educational and technological resources. If psychiatric help is necessary, it may be hard to get. There is a shortage of child psychiatrists, and insurers are of little help in finding them. When The New Haven Register called several doctors’ offices listed on Aetna’s website as “Psychiatry, child and adolescent,” they found none who actually treated pre-teen children. One doctor said of the rosters of providers issued by insurance companies, “Their lists are never correct.” More generally, psychiatrists are less likely than other physicians to accept insurance. A national survey found that barely half said they accepted private insurance and only 43 percent accepted Medicaid.