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Calls to Action

An Early Start for Your Child with Autism

June 20, 2012


Early intervention is critically important for children with autism, and research confirms that parents play a major role in fostering a young child’s social, emotional and learning skills. Now parents have a guide written by pioneering autism researchers in the field of early intervention for toddlers and preschoolers.

Psychologists Geri Dawson, Ph.D., and Sally Rogers, Ph.D., are known for developing the Early Start Denver Model, a comprehensive behavioral intervention for autism designed for children ages 12 months through preschool. The Early Start Denver Model integrates developmental relationship-focused strategies with the teaching practices of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

In An Early Start for Your Child with Autism, Drs. Dawson and Rogers, together with Laurie Vismara, Ph.D., translate the Early Start Denver Model approach into step-by-step strategies for parents and other caregivers. Their approach employs straightforward techniques that fit into family routines and are compatible with professionally delivered behavioral interventions for autism spectrum disorders. The goal is to promote learning, play, communication and social engagement through activities in the home and community.

“These strategies are meant to be used during the normal routines that are part of a family’s daily experience – like bath time, at the park or putting a child to bed," the authors note. “By using these activities as learning opportunities, children can learn to communicate, relate and play.”

For example, the book’s tips for mealtime include:

  • Give your child a small portion. Offer more, but wait for a signal. Once your child communicates a desire, provide the food while saying something like, "More? Sure, you can have more."
  • Offer your child a bite and then ask for a bite in return.
  • Put your child's cup on the table in sight but out of reach. Hold it up and ask, “Would you like something to drink?” Provide the cup when you’ve received some signal.
  • Songs are great language builders. When your child is finished, sing a simple “end of mealtime” song, with an accompanying gesture for you and your child to share.

The authors provide straightforward guidance on how parents can help the child overcome the challenges of autism spectrum disorder. Written to empower parents from the start, the book tackles tough questions and behavioral challenges and provides strategies that open new doors onto a brighter future.

Dr. Rogers is a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Davis, M.I.N.D. Institute and has conducted groundbreaking studies on early interventions for preschoolers and family interventions. Dr. Dawson is chief science officer for Autism Speaks and professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She is known for pioneering studies on early detection of autism in infants and early brain development and served as founding director of the University of Washington Autism Center. The book’s third author is board-certified behavior analyst Laurie Vismara, Ph.D. Dr. Vismara is also a clinical research scientist at the M.I.N.D. Institute.

Guilford Press, the publisher of An Early Start for Your Child with Autism, is offering a 30 percent discount for members of the Autism Speaks community. Enter the promotional code IQ at checkout here