Autism: Moving From Awareness to Action

National Autism Awareness Month has come and gone this April, and we are reminded that awareness is the first step in a long journey — a journey to action.

While awareness is certainly necessary and important, it is a funny thing. Some people may be aware simply by having heard the word “autism,” while others may fully understand what it is like to live with autism. So, as we reflect on autism awareness, we should also begin to reflect on how to move more and more people to action for autism.

After an individual receives an autism diagnosis, they continue to live their life with the support of many services and teams of people — action. Most individuals receive speech therapy, special education and a menu of additional services. With so many treatment options available, it is challenging for many to know how to act. Which treatment will work? Which one is the best choice? Which one can we afford? Will my child get better? Who can help?

While we still have questions about coverage for services in many cities and states, one trend remains: Treatments that have been found effective are those that are both behavioral and employed early. These treatments seem to have many names and delivery methods, making the transition to action tricky to navigate.

But, generally, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and its related treatments are the go-to offerings for action. ABA intervention can begin during infancy and continue into adulthood, so any time is a good time to act, and the earlier, the better. Some programs are offered for 30 hours each week, which is certainly preferred for most individuals from the time of diagnosis and into their early elementary years. Other programs are available to focus on the concerns that come up as an individual ages or to receive supplemental treatment.

So, now that we’re aware of autism, let’s spend the rest of the year focused on understanding how to act for autism. How to support individuals and families as they move from awareness to action. Learn about the programs available in your area and spread the word that early behavioral treatment is effective treatment.

Danielle DeLongDanielle DeLong, Psy.D., is currently the program manager of Harbor’s Intensive Behavior Treatment Program that uses Applied Behavior Analysis to address presenting concerns. She also performs comprehensive diagnostic evaluations, enjoys assisting parents in understanding their child’s diagnosis, develops plans to address presenting symptoms, and supports families as they navigate treatment. She received her Psy.D. in clinical psychology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and her Applied Behavior Analysis Graduate Academic Certificate from University of North Texas.