DENVER - One tiny word points to terrific progress for 3-year-old Alex.
As he uses sign language for the word, "ball" he says it too. His therapist, Jaime Formal, cheered. His mom, Naykary looked on smiling a smile of relief and hope.
Before Alex was referred to Rocky Mountain Human Services, formerly Denver Options, in November 2012, he was displaying a number of symptoms on the autism disorder spectrum. He was not communicating. He was banging his head, hitting, kicking and biting. For the majority of the day, every day, Alex would cry, scratch and punch his mother.
"I felt so sad," Naykary said. "I knew he was frustrated and that is why he was acting out. Every day was hard. "
She says she felt desperate and worried about Alex. She enrolled him into RMHS Child and Family Services last year. He was immediately referred to the Assessment and Consultation Team.
"Before he even had a diagnosis we sent in a therapist to his home and she started to work with him and his family."
It's all part of a program called the Individualized Family Service Plan that guides the early intervention process for children with disabilities and their families.
This is a new resource. RMHS has just expanded its autism services to include behavioral intervention services.
Just before Alex's third birthday earlier this year he was diagnosed with autism.
"Things are getting so much better," Naykary said. "We can communicate now and his frustration is gone."
For the first time this mother can say that her son seems happy.
She communicates with Alex using sign language and he is learning to say some words.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new figures on the prevalence of autism. The findings say autism affects one in 50 children, although that number can be hard to measure. It is the fastest-growing developmental disability.
RMHS says the demand for diagnostic and intervention services is growing with it and families often have to wait for help. It says that is why it is making more services available, including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) intervention services.
The focus is early diagnosis, meaning infant to 3-years-old.
The CDC reports that parents of children with autism typically notice a developmental problem before their child's first birthday and that children who enter intervention programs at younger ages have better chances of making greater gains than those who enter programs at an older age.
"We know families have a lot of questions when they receive an autism diagnosis and now we are able to give them hope and immediate support they need," said Jodi Dooling-Litfin Ph.D., director of Child and Family Programs at RMHS.
"By offering both diagnosis and intervention services, we're able to begin working with children immediately which is paramount to boosting the cognition, language and social skills among young children with autism," she said.
Doolilng-Litfin says some of the signs to look for are: a child not responding to their name, not imitating a smile, avoiding eye contact, and not being interested in common games like peek-a-boo.
"One thing by itself doesn't mean a child has autism, or there is a problem, but they are red flags to further explore," she said.
For more information on RMHS' Child and Family Programs or to schedule an appointment with the Assessment and Consultation Team or a behavior analyst, visit www.rmhumanservices.org/cfp.
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