Autism Early Intervention – Success Criteria

LittleMan is almost 5 and therefore is approaching the end of his ‘early intervention’ phase of his Autism journey. We now have been doing intervention for over 2 years now and it has been the major focus of our lives .. our activity .. our income and I can’t help but to look back on it and evaluate. I think that is natural. When you do something this big … that dominates the lives of everyone in the family that it is natural to look back and say … well was it worth it? Have we been successful with our early intervention program?

The hard part I think is that while you can find alot of information out there on what early intervention is and what are criteria you need to know that you are utilising an effective early intervention program. There is noting that I can find that looks at the question of the success criteria for Early Intervention. I think if you are going to endeavour on a enterprise that is going to involve at least 20 hours 1:1 therapy with a child for a minimum of 2 years (at least 1000 hours) you would have to have an idea in your head in what you are working for .. a goal … success criteria of what you should achieve after all of that time. But there does not appear to be anything … Not good enough. What do you think?

SuccessWhat Is Early Intervention?

Early interventions for the children with autism are developmentally and educationally based programs designed from birth to five years of age. The goal is to provide intensive therapeutic interventions that will allow the child to develop skills in all areas affecting his/her overall functioning level. With specific regard to autism, the best early intervention programs focus on teaching the child to attend to relevant stimuli (e.g., those necessary for learning), to imitate others, to use and comprehend language or some form of communication system, to play appropriately with toys and to learn to interact in a socially appropriate manner. Early intervention plays a critical role in reducing the need for life-long intervention services.

What Makes An Effective Early Intervention Program?

As with most educational programming, controversy abounds when discussing what is necessary for early intervention children with autism. This controversy is not so much about the apparent need for such programs, but rather how the services should be delivered and how often. However the  following characteristics have been identified across countries and methodologies as being essential in any early intervention program

  • The teaching techniques should be modeled upon research-based methods and curriculum.
  • A base line must be established using research-based tools and used for monitoring progress and curriculum development
  • Data (record keeping) must be kept to monitor the child’s acquisition of skills.
  • A highly supportive teaching environment, including the use of specially trained teachers, assistants and aides.
  • Built-in strategies for generalization.
  • Due to the nature of how autistic children learn, the teaching program must be highly structured, predictable and routine-oriented.

What are the Success Criteria for An Autism Early Intervention Program?

This is something that I have for sometime being trying to research and I haven’t as yet been successful. While as  parent I can see that there are successful methodologies that have been demonstrated through research and practical implementation to be ‘best practice’. But in the end, after you have completed the years of early intervention how can you know that the early intervention that you have completed … the hundreds of hours of work, sacrifice … was it worth it. Maybe it is because I come from a business and project management background .. but if I am going to do a significant undertaking I would like to know that there are clear measurable research-based success criteria in which performance can be measured. Why does this seem so unreasonable?

Most of the literature talk about the developmental of individualised goals … but I think as parents there are few high level goals that everyone wants to achieve .. but I guess the questions are … what are the critical success criteria and what are optional and what does it mean if the success criteria are not met … does this mean the early intervention was a failure?? I am not sure what I think anymore

Here are some ideas and potential success criteria …

  • The child being in all aspects indistinguishable from their peers (not cured … but to someone that does not know .. the ability for them not to be able to tell) – The holy grails of early intervention.
  • the ability to integrate into a mainstream school setting
    • without additional support required
    • with support from behaviour therapist or aide for social situations
    • with support from behaviour therapist or aide for limited academic assistance (in some subjects or a limited number of hours per week/day)
    • with support from behaviour therapist or aide for all academic activity
    • with support from behaviour therapist or aide for all academic activity, sport and playground activity
  • the ability to attend a general special needs school where the ratio of teachers to staff to students is
    • 1 Staff : 10 Students
    • 1 Staff : 5 Students
    • 1 Staff : 3 Students
  • the ability to communicate verbally
    • at a level indistinguishable from their peers
    • with up to a 12 month language and communication delay
    • with up to a 24 month language and communication delay
    • with up to a 36 month language and communication delay
    • babbling
  • the ability to effectively use a augmented communication system like PECs
    • communicate wants and needs
    • to be able to identify objects and make observations
    • to have a conversation with another person using electronic PECs tools
  • the ability to dress and care for themselves
    • the ability to select and independently put on clothes
    • the ability to put on clothes selected for them
  • the ability to independent toilet (void)
    • completely toilet trained
    • completely toilet trained during the day
    • toilet trained for urin (not for poo)
  • working against measures on a developmental assessment such as the Griffith Development Scale
    • maintaining the same differential gap between skills attained against chronological age – i.e. being 12 month delayed and maintaining 12 month delay
    • reducing the differential gap between skills attained against chronological age – i.e. being 12 month delayed and reducing to 6 month delay

What do you think? I am sure that this list could have hundred more point? What have I missed?  What do you think should be in a list of success criteria?

Images –

Download Mother With Children by Ambro
Success Concept by renjith krishnan