What is Early Intervention?

Photo by Aaron Mello on Unsplash

By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

bSci21Media, LLC

Learning that your child has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at an early age provides families with an amazing opportunity to get support early.  Children who begin early intervention services in the early pre-school years are likely to have improved long-term outcomes and catch up to the skills of typically developing peers while the gap is small.

ABA Therapy is an individualized approach that is tailored toward each child’s specific needs and is currently the number one recommended therapy for the treatment for children diagnosed with ASD.  The therapy is based on strategies that are research driven, empirically validated and developed as a team with each family.

A successful Early Intervention program works to promote and develop speech, self-help skills, communication skills, feeding and school readiness skills.  It is essential that these programs are led by Board Certified Behavior Analysts also known as BCBAs and implemented by Registered Behavior Technicians also known as RBTs.  It is recommended that early intervention be provided for 25-40 hours per week. In home settings, the therapists will work with your child in your home during times that are convenient to you.

Here are some advantages of receiving Early Intervention at home:

A Comfortable Environment

Your home is where your child is most comfortable.  Your child’s favorite toys, movies, and foods are at home, which are great resources to incorporate into skill-building programs.  If your child has a toileting accident, a familiar bathroom is close by.  Lastly, as a parent, you are more likely to be in the same place where your child is receiving services.  You can see how the therpist is interacting with your child at all times, and how treatment is progressing.

A Controlled Environment

The home also provides a relatively controlled environment, as compared to schools and centers.  The latter are more likely than not to have more distractions from other kids and staff.  At home, you have greater freedom to arrange the learning environment exactly how you want, in order to maximize learning gains.

A Steady Environment

Finally, the home is typically more conducive to intensive treatment of up to 40 hours a week, if the particular case warrants that level of intensity.  Moreover, since those 40 hours all occur in the same setting, the therapist is more likely to establish a regular daily routine with your child that also involves you, the parent.

If your child is diagnosed with ASD and is not yet receiving services, it is strongly encouraged to look into ABA programs as soon as possible. The earlier services are received, the more likely your child is to make lasting progress. For more information regarding where you can receive early intervention services and what is included in a great early intervention program, contact [email protected].


Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is the President and Founder of bSci21Media, LLC, which owns the top behavior analytic media outlet in the world, bSci21.org.  bSci21Media aims to disseminate behavior analysis to the world and to support ABA companies around the globe through the Behavioral Science in the 21st Century blog and its subsidiaries, bSciEntrepreneurial, bSciWebDesign, bSciWriting, bSciStudios and the ABA Outside the Box CEU series.  Dr. Ward received his PhD in behavior analysis from the University of Nevada, Reno under Dr. Ramona Houmanfar.  He has served as a Guest Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and as an Editorial Board member of Behavior and Social Issues.  Dr. Ward has also provided ABA services to children and adults with various developmental disabilities in day centers, in-home, residential, and school settings, and previously served as Faculty Director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Dr. Ward is passionate about disseminating behavior analysis to the world and growing the field through entrepreneurship. Todd can be reached at [email protected]

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1 Comment

  1. I often think that early intervention this way. It seems to me that early intervention teaches a person, who does not contact positive reinforcement with the ease that other children do, to contact reinforcement by suggesting that, rather than escaping from the aversive confusion of the world, the child do something that he/she can do and then contact positive reinforcement. The effect of this is that the child learns that it is possible (probable) to contact reinforcement in the response environment in which they find themselves, and some of that experience becomes a generalized automatic (self-provided) contingency. It is critical for this to happen in a person’s life because without the experience of learning that positive reinforcement is available to receive, the child is left to a frightening, confusing, often verbal, world from which s/he is challenged to constantly escape. As this punitive confusion builds, this establishing operation eventually and respondently elicits aggression as it would for any organism who contacted this level of punishment. Unfortunately, this aggressive behavior also has operant escape properties and, if left to this cycle of elicited aggression and operant escape, “melt-down” behavior is quickly shaped up in an automatic negative reinforcement paradigm, now often verbally self-provided, to escape this difficult and confusing world. Early intervention interferes with this cycle with an escape-extinction procedure which offers something the child can do. The general format of the procedure is, “Honey, don’t do that, do this– that’s right!” Programs that provide developmental response sequencing may be helpful for choosing the next skill to acquire, but withholding reinforcement for the automatic negative reinforced escape response to the on-going punitive, often verbal, establishing operations presented to these special individuals is the key to allowing them to learn productive behavior instead of the “life-saving” escape behavior (e.g., “melt-downs”) that crowds out all other responding capable of contacting positive reinforcement. I’m a big proponent of early intervention.

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