MINOT, N.D. - According to the CDC, in 2012 the number of children identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder has increased from one in 150 children to one in 68 children.
Autism can vary from child to child, but now the speech therapists at Trinity Health are more prepared to work with children. Each one is now certified through the More Than Words Program that helps children under the age of five meet three goals.
Improved imitation skills, improved play skills, a main component in their treatment.
"A lot of times we'll see exploratory play. They're watching the wheels spin on the car, but they're not truly playing with the cars, so we work on play. We do know that a child's work is play so all of our therapy is play based," Speech Language Pathologist Chelsie Haaland said.
And lastly improved communication. Something that doesn't always happen verbally.
"The focus on More than Words is to teach parents that communication is not just spoken words. it can be a gesture, it can be eye contact, it can be a picture exchange, so our goal it to look at play comprehension and expression and teach parents what to look for in all of those areas to help their child grow," Haaland said.
Teamwork is a focus between therapists and parents, so the work is constant and consistent.
"I might be the professional that can work on the strategies, but I only get an hour and a half or two hours with your child. You get them the rest of the time so can I teach you what I know so that you can take that home and help them develop the skills they have the potential to develop," Haaland said.
Thanks to awareness and early diagnosis the futures for children with autism is much brighter.
"The earlier we can get intervention services for them the better off they are in the long run. In fact there has been some research recently that suggests that early intervention can actually help to diminish the symptoms of autism to the point where the diagnosis is no longer applicable," Haaland said.
If you suspect your child may have autism the first step is to talk to your pediatrician. Children can be diagnosed as young as 18 months.