Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida recently announced that through early intervention and targeted education in collaboration with several community partners it has seen a significant reduction in the age of autism diagnosis in the children in our communities over the past 18 months.
In July 2017, the average age of children diagnosed with Autism by Easterseals in Volusia and Flagler Counties was 7.9 years old. (The average age of diagnosis across the country is 4.8 years old). From July 1, 2017 through Aug. 31, 2018, due to a targeted effort toward parent and caregiver education, Easterseals Northeast Central Florida saw a decrease in the age of diagnosis to 5.87 years old. Children presenting for diagnosis ranged in age from 18 months - 18 years.
Easterseals is the Help Me Grow Volusia-Flagler affiliate at United Way of Volusia-Flagler Counties, the agency to whom the data was reported.
“Early identification and intervention of autism is crucial in order to maximize a child’s development and progress,” said Dorothy Lefford, OTR/L, VP Clinical Services at Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida. “Research shows early intervention makes a big difference to a child’s development leading to improved outcomes for children with autism, including higher intelligence, adaptive skills, and increased social and daily living skills.”
“We are thrilled that our Help Me Grow Volusia-Flagler affiliate at United Way of Volusia-Flagler Counties was a part of the effort that helped reduce the age of detection for autism in Volusia county from 7.9 to 5.8 this year,” Help Me Grow Florida posted recently on its Facebook page, adding that “early detection and intervention are key in autism treatment.”
The local leader in autism resources, Easterseals is teaching parents how to incorporate these research-based techniques into homelife and prioritizes educating parents and caregivers. Strategies that the highly recognized Easterseals’ Autism Center of Excellence employs include Autism Early Diagnostic and Functional Assessment Clinic, The PLAY Project (Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters), ASK: Autism Strategies Know-How behavior-modification educational clinics, TR-eat® Model (Transdisciplinary Effective Assessment and Treatment) behavior strategies for food aversion, free “ACT Now!” Autism Community Training events that offer CEU opportunities for staff and direct consultation with Easterseals’ autism experts, and more.
Autism Center of Excellence in Daytona Beach and serves more than 500 children annually who have been diagnosed with autism. It’s premier local resource for diagnosis, interventions, resource and referral and case management for children who were referred by their physician for evaluation of autism spectrum disorder.
To learn more about Easterseals’ autism services and its Autism Center of Excellence, visit its webpage or call (386) 944-7833.
Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida serves more than 17,500 individuals and families with a range of disabilities to achieve their full potential. Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida serves the region with facilities in Daytona Beach, DeLand, Bunnell, and Leesburg. To learn more about Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida, please visit www.eastersealsnecfl.org or connect to our online community on Facebook.
Did you know Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are the fastest growing developmental disabilities in the world today, affecting 1 in 59 children?
It takes a team approach to deliver exceptional care to children with ASD. Nowhere is that more evident than at Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida.
As the clinical coordinator for Easterseals’ Autism Center of Excellence, Debbie Neller, OTR/L, has the privilege of meeting with families, conducting autism diagnostic testing, and presenting her findings to physicians.
“Every day I am able to discuss observations, situations and unusual findings with others on our team who have wisdom and knowledge I may not have,” Neller said. “I don’t have to look far to find resources for myself as well as for the families I interact with.”
As the mother of a special needs child, she understands the alternating emotions of fear and hope that many parents experience.
“I am inspired every day by the children we serve and their families who come with concerns, hopes and fears,” she said. “To be able to speak to their concerns, maybe even alleviate some, and connect on common ground is so fulfilling. Having ‘walked a mile in their shoes,’ it is the ultimate full circle to be able to offer guidance and help to families who may feel lost.”
Since she joined the Easterseals in 1995, Neller has gained confidence, a sense of purpose, and a drive to help these families. She has also found the uncommon element of pure joy in her work.
“I can make a difference,” she said. “On a professional level, I am stretched each and every day. Children are amazing in all they are, and no two are alike. Working together with these amazing children and their parents, the Easterseals team is able to provide quality and compassionate care.”
Easterseals’ Autism Center of Excellence is a recognized leader in providing early diagnosis, functional assessment and intervention treatments for children with ASD. Learn more about Easterseals at www.eastersealsnecfl.org.
Need support in addressing challenging behaviors in children with autism? Just ASK.
Easterseals’ Autism Center of Excellence’s Debbie Neller, OTL/R, is spearheading a program with parents and caregivers in which she provides behavior-modification tactics through ASK: Autism Strategies Know-How. The one-hour program is empowering parents by improving their understanding of autism and increasing their confidence in supporting children on the autism spectrum.
Neller begins each session by explaining what autism is: A neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by difficulty with communication and socialization and often displayed with restricted interests and repetitive behaviors. According to statistics by Autism Speaks, autism occurs in 1 in 59 births and is 4-5 times more common in boys.
Common challenging areas for children with autism usually include anything sensory related, such as feeding, toileting, speech and oral or physical hygiene. Throughout each training, Neller encourages parents and caregivers to be astute observers of their children, and to not be afraid to implement new tactics. She recommends five research-supported strategies:
Neller encourages parents and caregivers of children with autism to be patient with themselves and remain hopeful on their journey while she illustrates the many strategies they can employ.
“I remind parents that their child is still the child they know and love and many methods exist to help their child in the most beneficial ways,” said Neller. “The ASK program helps adults understand the mind of a child with autism, while adding tools to the toolbox if and when they are needed.”
“We want these children’s homes to be filled with enthusiasm and laughter,” said Neller. “Empowering parents to be more effective in how interact with their children is an important step toward that reality.”
For more information about ASK or to schedule a presentation, contact Easterseals’ Autism Center of Excellence at 386-255-4568.
Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida’s Autism Center of Excellence has partnered with The PLAY Project™ to offer home-based consultations for families of children with autism. The PLAY Project, which represents “Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters,” is an evidence-based, parent-implemented and intensive early intervention program for young people with autism.
The program is cost effective, easy to bring into a home setting and has proven results in improving the social challenges associated with autism spectrum disorder.
The PLAY Project focuses on two key aspects to ensure greatest success: time intensity and the child’s age. Experts recommend 15-25 hours of engagement per week, and home consultants with Easterseals train the parents on what kinds of engagement are most beneficial. Starting early is equally important. Parents are encouraged to start The PLAY Project with their children before age five due to the significant brain growth experienced during that early life stage.
To learn more about The PLAY Project, contact Easterseals’ Autism Center of Excellence at 386-944-7815 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s time to play!
You've put butter on them, loaded them with cheese and buried them in macaroni noodles, but your child still won't eat what's for dinner. Or breakfast. Or lunch.
If this sounds more familiar than foreign, you already know you have a picky eater on your hands. But did you know there’s treatment for it? That there’s a program available in our community that doesn’t incite tantrums by your child…or you?
It’s called the TR-eat® Model (Transdisciplinary Effective Assessment and Treatment) and it’s now available through Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida. The TR-eat Model includes behavior strategies that are combined with skill building, facilitation, sensory desensitization, and oral motor intervention.
Is this program for your child? Self-assess by answering the following:
Does your child eat less than 15 foods consistently, maybe as few as 1-3?
Does your child gag, shudder or vomit at the sight or taste of foods?
Does your child become emotionally upset when they’re encouraged to interact with non-preferred foods?
Are there large categories of foods your child refuses to eat?
Does your child have sensory issues with food, such as not liking the way it smells, looks or feels?
Contact Dorothy Lefford today at 386-944-7856 or email@example.com for more information on this evidence-based model that’s been found to have consistently positive results for picky eaters. Your child may not be ready for a salad bar, but enlisting Easterseals’ help with food aversion could be a sweet TR-eat.
Autism now affects 1 in 59 children and 1 in 37 boys, so it’s no surprise neighborhood childcare centers in northeast central Florida are embracing training opportunities to increase their knowledge about autism spectrum disorders.
When childcare teams empowered to learn and identify early signs and red flags associated with autism when a child is in their earliest developmental stages, staff are more likely to confidently communicate those concerns with parents. As a result, interventions and therapies can help a child on the autism spectrum reach his or her full potential as early as possible. This, in turn, sets the stage to help a child improve their outcomes as they continue learning and growing.
Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida, which operates the award-winning Autism Center of Excellence in Daytona Beach, is now scheduling free Autism Community Training events. These “ACT Now!” programs include CEU opportunities for staff and direct consultation with Easterseals’ autism experts.
What can a childcare center expect from ACT Now training events?
1. Improved identification. Childcare employees who undergo autism training are more prone to accurately and more quickly identify a child’s aggression, tantrums or social-relationship struggles as related to autism spectrum disorder.
2. Individual plans of care. Armed with this knowledge, parents can work with specialists to create individual plans of care for the child.
3. Intervention options. Centers that enroll and care for children on the autism spectrum have the possibility of incorporating center-based interventions for these children, including occupational therapy, speech therapy, sensory integration and much more.
For more information about Easterseals’ Act Now! training events, call 386-944-7856.