Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability. ASD causes social, communication and behavioral difficulties. Children with ASD can be diagnosed and start to receive services as early as 2 years of age. Children with ASD can receive free services that help minimize their disability. These services can be provided at home, in a child care center, nursery school, play group, Head Start program, early childhood special education classroom or other settings.
Early education and child care providers can help identify children who might have ASD. Observations of a child's behavior and development are essential. Early diagnosis and intervention can make a big difference. With therapy, many children with ASD can significantly reduce their disability. Learn about the signs and common symptoms of ASD on the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/signs.html.
Watch every child for achievement of expected developmental milestones. Adapt the curriculum to reinforce newly achieved milestones and help children progress to the next level. The CDC offers a list of developmental milestones that children typically achieve by specific ages. This list of milestones for children from birth to 5 years of age is at http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/index.html.
Check for any delay meeting the developmental milestones. If you are concerned, suggest the family discuss the concern with their child's health care provider. Also, encourage the family to contact the Early Intervention (EI) help line without delay. The child should not lose the opportunity for early diagnosis and therapy. Call the EI system's CONNECT Helpline at 1-800-692-7288. EI provides local services to children at no cost to the family. Learn more about Pennsylvania's Early Intervention program at http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/early_intervention/8710