September 6, 2016

The Roadmap to Independence: Early Intervention

Individuals with ASD will grow, mature, and change over their entire life. As such, a person with ASD may also need access to a variety of programs and services throughout their life. Different needs will emerge as the individual moves from infancy to school-age to young adulthood and beyond. As the needs of the individual change, goals and services will also change. Think of this as a roadmap to independence—every service and support that we provide the individual with ASD builds toward the overall destination—adulthood!

Early on in infancy and toddlerhood, when the child is under the age of 3, the family’s roadmap should start with early intervention. Early intervention is one of the most crucial periods of a person’s life. Early intervention can provide families with the knowledge and skills to help their children make significant gains and reach their potential. This means that more and more children will have access to communication and social strategies, behavioral programs, and coping strategies at earlier ages—all things every child and adult with ASD will need at different stages of life! Early intervention is absolutely critical for many individuals with ASD and their families.

Did you know?

Virginia’s early intervention program, the Infant and Toddler Connection, is a program designed to meet the unique needs of infants and toddlers ages 0 to 3. Service coordinators, therapists, educators, and families work together to write an Individualized Family Service Plan, or IFSP. During early intervention, you might see a provider in the home environment using toys and other tools to teach different skills. You might also see a provider coaching a parent or other caregiver on how to teach the child different skills so that learning can continue throughout the day.

Those with ASD may have difficulty with foundational social and communication skills that can affect a person’s ability to participate in school, develop friendships with others, and affect quality of life. Early intervention focuses on families, the home environment, and routines that are important for every family. Establishing routines and helping very young children participate in different aspects of everyday life is important.

The Importance of Starting Early

Alicia Hart, Training Associate at VCU-ACE, is also a parent of a child with autism spectrum disorder. Her son, Ewan, started early intervention at just 14 months of age. Alicia says, “Early intervention was a game changer for our entire family. While providers such as speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, and other providers were able to help my son develop so many new skills, they also gave me the tools I needed to succeed as this child’s mother. They were able to coach me in ways that helped me support my son’s need for routines, his sensory challenges, and his communication skills. One of the greatest lessons I learned from early intervention was to utilize my son’s strengths throughout every aspect of life. He had an intense interest in all things space related so we used that to help him with many different skills. One of the first things we programmed into his communication device was a page about outer space topics. It was amazing to see how motivated he was to communicate about his love of planets!”

With the tools early intervention provided Ewan and his family, he has continued to thrive throughout different stages of life. Early intervention was able to set the stage for success during early childhood, school-age, and throughout his first steps into transition. Now, at 14 years of age, Ewan has grown into a confident self-advocate who continues to explore his love of all things space related, including many possible careers in astronomy! His roadmap to independence has included many different services, but it all started with early intervention!

Want to learn more?

For more in-depth information about The Roadmap to Independence, including early intervention, sign up for the Foundations of Autism Spectrum Disorder or The Parent Playbook courses!

For more information about Virginia’s early intervention program, the Infant and Toddler Connection, please visit and the Virginia Early Intervention Professional Development Center at

Don’t forget!

This month’s live webcast on 9/13/16 is Using Visual Support to Teach Students with ASD Across Environments with Amy Horne, Tracey Phillips, and Nancy Sorrentino. Participants will learn the importance of using visuals within four critical areas: instruction, environment, behavior, and communication. Teachers will be provided with ways to implement visual strategies into both self-contained and general education environments. To register for the webcast, visit:

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