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Early Diagnosis and Early Intervention is Crucial!

As many of you may have seen on our Facebook Page, Governor Ralph Northam has declared May 2019 Early Intervention Month because “some children are born with developmental delays and disabilities, and it is crucial that these children receive immediate intervention treatment upon diagnosis.”  According to the CDC, “recent estimates in the United States show that approximately one in six, or about 15%, of children aged 3 to 17 have one or more developmental disability” and the latest prevalence rate for autism is 1 in 59.”  The CDC also states, “early intervention can considerably improve children’s long-term development and social behaviors.”  A study published last week in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics stated that “new data suggest that autism detection and diagnosis can start as young as 14 months old with high accuracy, which could lead to children with autism having the option to start therapies early.”  Early diagnosis and intervention is vital while the frontal cortex part of the brain is more capable of absorbing information and changing (brain plasticity).  The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development states that “Individuals can learn and benefit from interventions and learning at any age, however, the earlier the better.”

In his Proclamation, Governor Northam stated that “it is important that Virginia’s citizens know about the early intervention services available for infants and toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities so families may utilize every opportunity to provide for the health and well-being of their children.”  Children under the age of two who are suspected of having a developmental delay or developmental disability to include autism may qualify for publicly funded Early Intervention services such as Speech and Occupational Therapy under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) which are facilitated by PEIDS and the  Infant Toddler Connection.  Children of any age may also qualify for private intensive therapy covered by private insurance and/or Medicaid.

  • Speech Therapy  assists children in the areas of speech, language, thinking, and swallowing.  A Speech Therapist can provide nonvocal children with an alternative form of communication; assist a child in expanding their length of communication; improve articulation; assist with receptive language deficits; as well as assist with feeding issues.
  • Occupational Therapy assists children in succeeding in their daily activities such as:  playing, learning, and socializing.  An Occupational Therapist can assist children with sensory processing issues,  problem solving, and provide environmental modification solutions.
  • Applied Behavior Analysis assists children with skill acquisitions in areas including but not limited to: communication (receptive and expressive), social skills, play skills, toileting, food acceptance, etc.  Applied Behavior Analysis assist children with decreasing dangerous/undesirable behaviors to include but not limited to: aggression, tantrum, self-injury, property destruction, elopement, non-compliance, etc.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development lists Applied Behavior Analysis among its recommended treatment methods for Autism Spectrum Disorder and states “ABA is a scientific approach to changing behavior.”  Applied Behavior Analysis has been supported by research and noteworthy/respected organizations for decades:
  • “Investigators have suggested that, to achieve the best possible outcomes, children with autism should begin intensive behavioral treatment as early as possible, preferably before the age of 4 years” (Green, 1996).
  • “Intervention for childhood autism based on applied behavior analysis and delivered intensively at home during the preschool period can bring about significant changes in children’s functioning”  (Remington et al., 2007).
  • Thomas Frazier, Chief Science Officer for the autism advocacy group Autism Speaks, states: “there is compelling data from many studies that early intensive behavioral intervention is effective.  Many children who receive early intensive behavioral intervention show substantial improvements in cognitive function, language, and daily living skills.”
Paragon Autism Services provides award winning ABA services to children diagnosed with Developmental Delay and Developmental Disabilities (including autism) who are covered by Medicaid and reside in Prince William, Caroline, Stafford, Spotslyvania, Fredericksburg, or King George.  We utilize individualized assessments and research driven interventions such as positive reinforcement to increase communication/language skills, social skills and play skills, adaptive life skills, self-help skills, and generalization while working on reducing unsafe behaviors such as aggression, elopement, self-injury, and non-compliance.   If you have any questions about Autism, local resources, early intervention, or how our ABA model can help your child, contact our office at 540-479-3889.  Find out for yourself why Paragon Autism Services has been voted 2018 FredParent’s Family Favorite Special Needs Resource for our ABA services and Outreach endeavors.
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April is Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month

As many of you know, April is Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month.  In 2016, 1 in every 68 children were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.  As of April 2018, that number increased to 1 in 59 — a 13.2% increase since 2014.  This article will discuss autism, the signs of autism, and the importance of early intervention.

Autism spectrum disorder, ASD, is a developmental disability.  Developmental disabilities are a group of conditions which present themselves during early childhood and persist throughout one’s lifetime.  Many teenagers and adults are currently being diagnosed with autism based on the DSM5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which now states:  “Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (but may not become fully manifested until social demands exceed limited capacities, or may be masked by learned strategies in later life)” https://cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/hcp-dsm.html.  Autism is a spectrum disorder meaning it affects individuals differently and to varying degrees.  As with all individuals, individuals on the spectrum possess individual strengths and weaknesses.  Some individuals with autism may require a high level of support while others require minimal to no support to achieve independence throughout their daily lives.  Although individuals with autism spectrum disorder are as unique as all other individuals, individuals with autism spectrum disorder experience deficits in the areas of communication, socialization, and behavior.  Some individuals may be non-vocal and prefer to be by themselves; while others may communicate through assistive technology and lack the skill to socialize beyond greeting others; yet other individuals may speak in complete sentences but may not know when to end a conversation or recognize when peers are no longer interested.

While children develop at different rates, it is important to know your child and what skills are expected by certain ages in your child’s development.  “Children meet developmental milestones in the way they play, learn, speak, and act.”  The CDC has compiled a list of Developmental Milestones for children up to the age of 5 https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/index.html  You, the parent, know your child best.  As soon as you feel something “just isn’t right” with your child or he/she may not be meeting developmental milestones, discuss your concerns with your pediatrician immediately.  It is imperative that your child receives regular child checkups and that you discuss your concerns with your pediatrician.  Pediatricians will monitor your child’s development and ask you questions.  If your pediatrician identifies concerns or agrees with your concerns, he/she will do a developmental screening and your child may be diagnosed with one or multiple developmental delays. Your pediatrician will then refer your child for a comprehensive evaluation which will be conducted by a developmental pediatrician, a neurologist, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist.  Some signs of autism include:  little or no eye contact; little or no spoken words; little or no interest in other people or under/over reaction to odors, sounds, tastes, and textures; little or not interest in pretend play; lack of pointing to objects or looking at objects others point to; difficulties in changes with routine; and/or loss of skills once had.  Other signs can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends, “All children be screened for ASD at ages 18 and 24 months along with regular developmental surveillance” and states that “research shows that early intervention can considerably improve children’s long-term development and social behaviors.”  While there is no cure for autism and a person can not “outgrow” autism, early diagnosis and intervention is vital while the brain is more capable of absorbing information and changing (brain plasticity).  Early intervention can greatly improve a child’s outcomes and increase the likelihood that the child will meet their full potential.  Early intervention is proven to be effective, therefore, the earlier you can obtain services for your child the better.  The Autism Society recommends early intervention for children diagnosed with Autism.  http://www.autism-society.org/living-with-autism/autism-through-the-lifespan/infants-and-toddlers/early-intervention/.  The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development states that “individuals can learn and benefit from interventions and learning at any age; however, the earlier the better.”

Children under the age of two who are suspected of having a developmental delay or developmental disability to include autism may qualify for publicly funded Early Intervention services such as Speech and Occupational Therapy under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).  Children of any age may also qualify for private intensive therapy covered by private insurance and/or Medicaid.  The first intensive therapy your child may benefit from is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).  ABA is a science which combines the laws and principles of learning and behavior to build skills in the areas of communication, socialization, toileting, feeding, independence, etc.  ABA can also reduce maladaptive behaviors and dangerous behaviors such as: aggression, tantrum behavior, self-injurious behavior, etc.  Speech Therapy is another intervention and can assist children in the areas of speech, language, thinking, and swallowing.  A Speech Therapist can provide nonvocal children with an alternative form of communication; assist a child in expanding their length of communication; improve articulation; assist with receptive language deficits; as well as assist with feeding issues.  Occupational Therapy can assist children in succeeding in their daily activities such as:  playing, learning, and socializing.  An Occupational Therapist can assist children with problem solving and provide environmental modification solutions.

Aside from early intervention and therapy, there is a lot of support for individuals diagnosed with autism and their families which are offered through government entities and private entities alike.  Families and individuals are encouraged to get involved in educational and recreational opportunities to include:  support groups for parents and siblings, recreational activities, and training/informational sessions.  Families and individuals are encouraged to explore and apply for government assistance such as:  Medicaid (FAMIS PLUS), Childrens Health Insurance Program (FAMIS), Medicaid Waivers, and private grants.  Children with autism could qualify for government funded Early Intervention services (PEIDS and Infant Toddler Connection) as stated above as well as special education services as listed under IDEA.  Families are encouraged to explore and utilize all options available.  A complete guide to supports and resources in Virginia, Roadmap to Supports, as well as many other resources can be found at http://paragonautismservices.com/blog/.  Paragon Autism Services invites families to utilize Paragon Autism Services for their knowledge, resources, free educational opportunities, and free recreational opportunities.

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Tips for a Successful Halloween

Halloween can be a fun night but it can also be overwhelming and stressful. Follow our Halloween tips to help your child have the most enjoyable Halloween possible! As always if you have any questions about ABA or need additional community resources do not hesitate to reach out to us.

bleed-Cling-for-winners

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Road Map to Support

Do you have concerns about your child’s development, or was your child recently diagnosed with Autism, Developmental Delay or Developmental Disability?  We have created a Road Map to Support for families in Virginia.  The 6 steps detailed in the road map will help you get a diagnosis, understand services for your child, and become knowledgeable about state resources.  Click on the document below:

Road Map to Support.docx

As always, please feel free to contact Paragon Autism Services with any additional questions or requests for services and resources.

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Questions for your potential ABA Provider

Paragon has started a new YouTube channel. Visit our YouTube Page to view our videos. Our first video will teach families 10 important questions to ask your potential ABA provider. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3Gf1IaiHfSbboBtjUg9UOg?view_as=subscriber

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Happy Halloween?

It’s October, the air is crisp, the leaves are turning, and October 31st is approaching. Yes, Halloween is quickly approaching. Nothing strikes fear and confusion into a child with autism more than the confusing events surrounding Halloween. Let’s analyze:

1. That’s not the rule. As parents, we spend all year trying to teach our child the concept of “stranger danger”. Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t go to a stranger’s house. Don’t take candy from a stranger. EXCEPT ON OCTOBER 31? Nothing confuses rule-governed individuals more than small deviations from the rules. Before Halloween, read social stories with your child; go over the holiday specific rules; show him/her a calendar and highlight the date to make everything more visual; write the date specific rules on the calendar.

2. Is it real or make believe? Some children on the spectrum can’t separate between fantasy and reality or understand the concept of pretend. Children are people dressed up as ghosts, goblins, dogs, cats, superheros. Go figure! Before Halloween, read books and social stories; work on pretend skills; allow them to dress up as their favorite character or animal; do a dress rehearsal.

3. Sensory overload. Many children with Autism have sensory issues. Some children have olfactory sensitivities and the smells of Halloween can send them into a meltdown. Some children have tactile sensitivities and are asked to wear itchy costumes. The costumes are frequently too hot or too cold. Some children have audio sensitivity and the loud boos, moans, laughter, and voices can also cause a high level of uncomfortability for our children. Plan your route. Only go to homes with small to no crowds and minimal to no blinking lights or loud noises. Allow your child to chose a costume even if it is just a tee shirt or character pajamas. Stay away from masks and makeup if necessary.

4. Makes me sick and makes me angry. Many of our children experience gastrointestinal issues and/or food issues. Introducing them to different foods/candies for just one night could induce stomach issues or allergic reactions. Denying candy could lead to tantrums. Many of our children also have co-morbid diagnosis including seizure disorder. Bright lights or twinkling lights can cause seizures. Stay away from homes and children with blinking lights. Pre-plan your route. Give your trusted neighbors dietary safe food items ahead of time or carry some with you.

5. Let’s deviate from schedule and transition. Many of our children thrive on sameness. Halloween festivities usually occur in the evening when their routine is impacted. Also, think of all the many transitions involved in trick or treating or the more recent safer version, trunk or treat. Allow your child to help plan their route. Utilize first/then or even a list of the order of visits. Limit time out trick or treating. Allow your child to stay home and possibly give out candy to participate yet limit transitions. Watching others do it this year may lead to desire to participate further next year.

6. Social and behavioral nightmare. Many of our children want to socialize but experience language and social skill deficits. Still others experience anxiety when pushed into social situations. Many of our children also have issues with walking with adults, holding hands, or coming when called. Let’s not forget that we have to check their candy so even if the child were to behavior request the candy, as parents, we would have to deny the candy until we can check it for safety. Denied access especially after appropriately requesting or a delay in access could lead to tantrums. Go over rules first including candy safe rules and walking with adults rules. Read/write social stories. Carry candy with you. Allow your child to choose “buddies” to walk with. Teach and practice holding hands and walking with adults before Halloween. Check into/apply for Project Lifesaver.

Here at Paragon, we assist our clients with social skills, cooperation, and communication skills. We also work with parents to develop antecedent and consequence strategies to accommodate and assimilate into holidays and traditions. Some antecedent and consequence strategies are listed in the blocks below.

If you have any questions on Applied Behavior Analysis, Paragon Autism Services, or how we can help your child reach their potential in areas such as: communication, socialization, cooperation, recreation/leisure, or self-help skills, just to name a few, please don’t hesitate to call the office at 540-479-3889 or talk to our staff at any of our free Outreach events. Our Outreach events are open to anyone with a diagnosis of Intellectual Disability, Developmental Delay, and/or Autism and their families.

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When it Comes to Autism – The Earlier the Diagnosis and Intervention the Better

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) “stands behind its recommendation that all children be screened for ASD at ages 18 and 24 months” and states that “research shows that early intervention can considerably improve children’s long-term development and social behaviors.”  Brain plasticity is higher at early stages in life, which is why early diagnosis and intervention is so vital while the brain is more capable of absorbing information and changing.  The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development states that “Individuals can learn and benefit from interventions and learning at any age, however, the earlier the better.” 

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development lists Applied Behavior Analysis among its recommended treatment methods for Autism Spectrum Disorder, “behavioral therapy is often based on applied behavior analysis (ABA), a widely accepted approach that tracks a child’s progress in improving his or her skills.” ABA  is a scientific approach to changing behavior through manipulating environmental factors.  ABA increases and teaches socially acceptable behaviors such as: communication and language (length of conversation, requesting, “wh” questions, articulation, etc); social and play skills (initiation, greetings, turn taking, etc.); self-help skills (toileting, feeding, hair and tooth-brushing, etc.); compliance and cooperation (waiting, coming when called, etc.);  and adaptive life skills.  ABA also works on decreasing socially unacceptable and unsafe behaviors such as: tantrum behaviors, elopement (leaving an area without permission, could include wandering or running from an assigned area or away from parent/caregiver), aggression, and self injurious behaviors (pulling own hair, biting or hitting self, etc.).

For years, researchers have shown that ABA has assisted children diagnosed with Autism in making strides in communication, behavior, cooperation and compliance skills, self-help,  and social skills, etc.  According to a journal article  in Behavior Modification, “Investigators have suggested that, to achieve the best possible outcomes, children with autism should begin intensive behavioral treatment as early as possible, preferably before the age of 4 years” (Green, 1996).  In 1985, Franske, Zalenski, Krantz, and McClannahan conducted a study on 9 children with autism who began behavioral treatment prior to age 5 and 9 children with autism who began behavioral treatment after the age of 5 and according to the same article, concluded that “the outcomes of the younger children were more favorable than those of the older children.” The same article stated that “Harris and Handleman (2000) found that children who began treatment prior to the age of 4 years made larger gains than those who began treatment after this age.” (Eikeseth, Smith, Jahr, Eldevik 2002).  Aside from neural plasticity, ABA may have greater success with younger children because socially inappropriate and dangerous behaviors in older children may have a longer and stronger reinforcement history than those of younger children.  The taught skills are also utilized as replacement behaviors for the socially un-acceptable, dangerous behaviors.  ABA also utilizes the individual’s strengths and preferences for skill building and behavior reduction.  ABA utilizes differential reinforcement to reinforce the desired and not reinforce the undesired.

Applied Behavior Analysis is what we do here at Paragon Autism Services.   We utilize individualized assessments and research driven interventions such as positive reinforcement to increase communication/language skills, social skills and play skills, adaptive life skills, self-help skills, and generalization while working on reducing unsafe behaviors such as aggression, elopement, self-injury, and non-compliance. At Paragon, we pride ourselves on  our number of Board Certified and licensed staff (4 BCBA/LBA; 8 BCaBA/LaBA),  our hard-earned reputation, our team approach, our parent/caregiver training, our collaboration with other providers and school personnel while providing educational advocacy, and our free monthly outreach programs.   If you have any questions about early intervention or how ABA or Paragon can help your child, please feel free to contact our office at 540-479-3889. 

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