April is Autism Awareness Month. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the fastest-growing serious developmental disorder in the United States and affects 1 out of every 68 children. If trends continue, the number of children diagnosed with ASD will soon outnumber the amount of children diagnosed with diabetes or cancer combined.
Many families are worried about this disorder, but there is good news. Early detection raises the likelihood that these children will have the same opportunities all Montanans have in education, the community, friendships and life. In fact, 67 percent of Montana children who receive early intervention services do not require special education preschool services.
While there is no cure and no identified cause for ASD, the disorder usually incorporates repetitive behaviors, difficulties in social interactions and speech impairments. Children with ASD also show a restricted range of interests or behaviors.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that all children aged 18 to 24 months receive some sort of screening for Autism Spectrum Disorder. An early diagnosis is important so that children can begin therapy as soon as possible.
The brains of infants and toddlers are still developing; the earlier a child starts therapy, the sooner families will start to see a positive impact. By taking advantage of the natural learning abilities of children under the age of 3, therapies can limit the negative effects of ASD on the brain and equip children and their families with strategies to live better, more fulfilling lives.
Family involvement in this process is very important which is why many early intervention programs emphasize their role in a child’s development. Families can learn techniques and strategies for improving communication and keeping their child’s attention. This enables children to learn and interact with others throughout the day.
Some of the risk factors associated with autism include:
• Having a sibling with autism
• Odd motor movements
• Low birth weight
• Maternal obesity
• Advanced paternal age
Family Outreach is a private, non-profit agency that provides education and support services to children and adults with intellectual disabilities or developmental delays in the Bozeman, Butte and Helena areas. These services include early intervention, autism insurance services, children’s waiver, supported employment and supported living. Their services are delivered directly to families in their homes to provide support and resources that enhance cognitive, language, social emotional and physical development through everyday learning opportunities.
Family Outreach provides Montana Milestones/Part C Early Intervention Services for ages 0-3 at no cost to families. Referrals can be made if there are any questions or concerns about a child’s development. Screening is free and confidential.
Family Outreach provides a wide variety of services free of charge to a wide variety of individuals throughout Southwest Montana.
Please contact the office nearest you to get information about services provided and employment opportunities!
1212 Helena Ave
Helena, MT 59601
1315 East Main
Bozeman, MT 59715
Butte, MT 59701
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