April is Autism Awareness Month, and Durham’s Partnership for Children is proud to join the national efforts to raise awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and support families and children impacted by this condition. ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behavior. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 in 54 children in the United States is diagnosed with ASD. This prevalence has increased steadily over the years, making ASD one of the most common developmental disabilities in the country.
The Role of Early Care and Education Providers
Early care and education providers, including childcare centers, preschools, and early intervention programs, play a crucial role in supporting young children with ASD and their families. These providers can help identify early signs of ASD, provide early intervention services, and create a supportive and inclusive learning environment for children with ASD.
One of the essential tasks of early care and education providers is to promote early screening and assessment for ASD. The earlier ASD is diagnosed, the better the chances for children to receive early intervention services and support. Providers can use evidence-based screening tools and collaborate with families, healthcare providers, and early intervention programs to ensure that children with ASD receive timely and appropriate services.
Early care and education providers can also support children with ASD by creating a positive and inclusive learning environment. This includes implementing individualized learning plans, using visual aids and communication tools, promoting social interaction and play, and fostering positive relationships with families.
Services Available to Young Children with ASD under IDEA
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), children with ASD are eligible for early intervention services and special education services. Early intervention services are provided to children from birth to three years old and focus on supporting the child’s development and learning in the natural environment, such as the home or daycare. Special education services are provided to children ages three to twenty-one and focus on providing individualized educational programs (IEPs) to meet the child’s unique needs.
Some of the services available to young children with ASD under IDEA include:
· Speech and language therapy
· Occupational therapy
· Physical therapy
· Applied behavior analysis (ABA)
· Social skills training
· Assistive technology
· Special education instruction
Early care and education providers can work closely with families, healthcare providers, and early intervention programs to ensure that children with ASD receive the appropriate services and support.
Other Helpful Resources for Early Childhood Providers
In addition to the services available under IDEA, there are many other helpful resources for early childhood providers working with children with ASD. These resources include:
· The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder: A free online resource that provides evidence-based practices and professional development for early childhood providers working with children with ASD.
· Autism Focused Intervention Resources and Modules: A free online resource that provides intervention strategies and resources for working with children with ASD.
· Autism Speaks: A national organization that provides advocacy, awareness, and support for individuals with ASD and their families.
· The Autism Society: A national organization that provides advocacy, support, and resources for individuals with ASD and their families.
As we celebrate Autism Awareness Month, let us remember the importance of early screening and assessment, early intervention services, and inclusive and supportive learning environments for children with ASD. Early care and education providers play a critical role in supporting the development and learning of children with ASD, and we are grateful for their commitment and dedication to this important work. Let us continue to raise awareness, promote understanding, and support families and children impacted by ASD.