Cleveland autism diagnosis

5 To-Dos After Cleveland Autism Diagnosis

Cleveland autism diagnosis

A Cleveland autism diagnosis can leave parents reeling – even when it’s something you’ve been expecting as you awaited the results of ADOS testing and other examinations. Sometimes, it can feel like something of a relief. You finally have answers. But there’s also the daunting next question: What now?

Parents face a lot of uncertainties, siblings may not understand (or may have much anxiety if they do), and the child who was diagnosed may not yet understand the implications – but can still sense shifts in emotional tone throughout the home.

Autism, more formally known as Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by difficulties with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and non-verbal communication. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that autism affects 1 in 44 children in the U.S. today. Our dedicated team of speech therapists, ABA therapists, occupational therapists, and educators offers help to families in Cleveland, Brecksville, Broadview Heights, and Akron.

No. 1: Breathe

The very first thing to do after a Cleveland autism diagnosis is BREATHE. Autism is a lifelong condition – and that in itself can feel very intimidating as you contemplate your next steps. But know that in most cases, the symptoms can be managed. Behaviors can be managed with help. Your child can lead a long, healthy, meaningful, successful life.

You have already taken the very hardest step in all of this, which is seeking professional intervention when you recognized something wasn’t quite right. You persisted in pursuing answers – even when you knew the answers might pose challenges you might not feel ready to face. You did this because you love your child.

Now that they have an autism diagnosis, give yourself a few beats to catch your breath, acknowledge your own feelings, and prepare yourself for the next chapter. Your engagement and advocacy will be pivotal to your child’s success, and it’s important that you’re in a good mental/emotional space to do so. Online support groups through Facebook and other social media channels can be especially helpful as you embark on this journey.

No. 2: Explore Early Intervention

The next/first step is to get help. Your options may vary depending on your child’s age. Do not worry that your child may be too young. A child can receive a Cleveland autism diagnosis as young as 18 months, and early intervention therapies are strongly recommended to start before a child turns 3.

In Northeast Ohio, we have a program called Help Me Grow for infants and toddlers birth to age 3 with a medical diagnosis or developmental delay, as well as for families concerned about their child’s development. They help work on things like speech delays, social interaction help with other kids, etc.

Services and specialists may include:

  • occupational therapy
  • speech therapy
  • physical therapy
  • developmental specialist
  • early childhood mental health therapy
  • registered dietician
  • vision and hearing specialists

You may need to obtain a referral to early intervention from your pediatrician or pediatric specialist. In Cuyahoga County, it takes about 45 days from the referral to complete the eligibility, assessment, individual family service plan, and then finally the beginning of early intervention services. There has been something of a backlog since COVID, so it’s a good idea to get this process started as soon as possible.

Cleveland autism resources

No. 3: Start Looking at Private Therapy

Early intervention is provided as a public service. But children with autism can also benefit from private therapy services. In the beginning, the schedule of these services may be intensive, ultimately tapering off as they reach their goals and milestones.

Children with autism are often referred for a combination of therapy services, including:

  • Speech Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Applied Behavioral Analysis (also known as ABA or behavior therapy)

Therapy & Wellness Connection offers all of these – and more – and insurance covers most if not all of these services if your child has been diagnosed with autism. We can provide these services in-clinic, in-home, and sometimes in school or daycare. Some patients may be eligible to receive some of these services via teletherapy.

The key with these services is consistency. Intensive therapy, particularly early on, can feel a bit overwhelming when it’s 3-4 times a week (longer stretches with ABA therapy), but showing up and being actively engaged in the carryover is important.

If your child is school-age, the school should begin the process of drafting an IEP, or individualized education plan. If you find ultimately that your child’s school and IEP fail to serve their best interests, there are scholarships available to enroll them in private education, with teachers who will teach the way they learn. Therapy & Wellness Connection offers homeschooling and other education services with credentialed special teachers and intervention specialists.

No. 4: Engage With a Social Skills Group

Among the most significant deficits many kids on the autism spectrum face are communication and social skills. They’re going to need as much practice as they can – early and often. And it’s a lot of pressure to just put on a sibling or two. Joining a Cleveland social skills group for kids with autism can help them make significant strides.

We offer several different social skills groups, sorted by age, at our Brecksville clinic. These include:

  • Say-n-Play. This is an awesome group that focuses on social interactions and activities like crafts, songs, games, and books. It helps children with speech-language difficulties, but also following directions and engaging with others in a group setting.
  • OT Group. This focuses on zones of regulation, social interaction, and skills of daily life. We take fun “field trips,” play games, and work on group projects.
  • Thrive Social Center Courses. These include everything from learning social boundaries to getting along with friends to teens & technology, to young adult groups.

This extra support will help prepare kids for real-world scenarios and interactions, helping them make friends, stay safe, and be included.

No. 5: Learn to Listen Without Your Ears.

If your child has received a Cleveland autism diagnosis and is non-verbal or speech-delayed, it can be very frustrating to know what they want, what they don’t want, how you can help, and how to parent them. But just because they aren’t talking doesn’t mean they aren’t communicating. Remember that behavior itself is a form of communication, and kids on the spectrum may be engaging in “unexpected” behaviors to communicate wants, needs, or aversions.

ABA Therapy is extremely helpful in addressing unexpected behaviors and promoting those that are expected and helpful. Speech therapy can help with non-verbal communication, articulation, and social pragmatics. Occupational therapy can help kids tackle critical life skills like self-regulation, measuring the size of a problem, diversifying their diet, self-care, etc.

But in the meantime, recognize that just because they aren’t talking doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to say. You may be your child’s voice for the foreseeable future. It’s important to try your best to engage them at every opportunity, and understand what’s NOT being said.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides ABA therapy to children in Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Cleveland, Akron, and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

What is Autism? AutismSpeaks.com

More Blog Entries:

Cleveland ABA Therapy Strategies, May 5, 2022, Cleveland Autism Treatment Blog

Cleveland speech therapists

Cleveland Speech Therapists Offer Activities to Encourage Kids’ Language

Cleveland speech therapists

May is Better Speech & Hearing Month, and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports 1 in 12 kids age 3-17 in the U.S. has a disorder related to voice, speech, language or swallowing. Our Cleveland speech therapists recognize that speech problems (difficulty being understood by others) are the most common among kids ages 3-10. Language problems (difficulty understanding others) ranked No. 2. More than one-third of kids with communication disorders has more than one.

As Cleveland speech therapists, we have decades of combined experience in engaging with children with speech-language disorders and delays, and helping to encourage their development on these fronts. But we also recognize that speech therapy is only part of the puzzle! The more consistent practice and carryover a child has across environments, the better these new skills are going to “stick,” and the faster kids will reach their speech therapy goals!

So what’s the best way to practice these skills with your kids? Play!

“Your child’s most important job is to play. It’s through play that young kids learn and grow. So playing with your child is really the best way to help them sharpen those speech & language skills.”

Jaclyn McClymont, speech-language pathologist, owner and founder of Therapy & Wellness Connection.

Any play that engages your child is generally going to be good for encouraging speech and language (as well as positive mental health and interpersonal connection). That said, there may be some activities/games that are more beneficial than others.

Here, our Cleveland speech therapists offer a few of our simple favorites!

Pretend Talk on the Phone

Pretending to talk on the phone is great for teaching kids important words, family member names, and social skills like turn-taking. If they’re very young, you can work on the basics, “Hi!” “Ok!” “Yes.” “No.” “Momma.” “Grama.” “Bye!” Modeling speech & language doesn’t need to be super complicated for it to be effective. The key is to keep it fun!

Cleveland speech therapy kids

“Who’s on the phone? Is it Daddy? No, Ok. Is it Momma?”

“Did you tell Momma hi? Hi, Momma! Ok, bye!”

Sing Songs in Motion

The list here is endless, but to name a few:

  • Wheels on the Bus
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • Old Macdonald
  • Five Little Ducks
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes
  • Baby Shark (if it doesn’t drive you crazy!)
  • Hokey Pokey

Often, kids will copy the motions first. Eventually, they’ll wade in with a few of the words. Before you know it, they’ll have it all down to a T!

YouTube has some engaging videos to go along with these, and the extra visual may help too.

Look Through/Read Books

You don’t have to read a 40-page book. Most kids won’t sit through that anyway. But start with picture books. Think small – 3-5 pages. And you don’t necessarily have to “read” them all either. Look through the pictures. Point to various objects or people in the story. Label them. Talk about what might be happening.

speech therapist Cleveland kids

It will take time, but eventually you’ll be able to get through the whole book. Then you can start reading it. Rhyming or sing-songy books are often best for memorization.

Play Ball!

Kids love balls. They’re great not only for gross motor skills, but also for development of joint attention, turn-taking, and other key social skills.

You can work on words like roll, throw, bounce, catch, down, up, around, over, your turn, my turn, etc.

If you’re trying to encourage requesting, wait a few beats after you’ve gotten the ball for them to motion or ask for it returned.

“You want the ball? Say, ‘Ball!” or “Ball please!”

Narrate everything you’re doing.

“The ball went over the chair!”

Once they master some of the basics, you can start adding other adjectives.

“You’re playing with the big, blue ball!”

Play With Bubbles

Bubbles are so easy and simple, they’re sometimes overlooked – but they can be a source of ENDLESS fun and enjoyment for kids.

Help your child work on requesting the bubbles, model for them “more bubbles” and say words like, “up, down, pop, jump, catch, circle, over, under,” etc.

Speech therapy games

Bubbles are great at bath time year-round, but spring & summer are perfect for taking it outside, and giving them a chance to get some fresh air & soak up some Vitamin D!

Play With Pretend Food

Kids are crazy about pretend food. They love to play as if they are planning, preparing, and eating it. It’s been our Cleveland speech therapists’ experience that even when kids don’t have utensils or plates or cups or play-food, they’ll get imaginative and make do with what they have. So if you have pretend food – cool. If you don’t – no sweat. Kids’ imaginations are a wonder. You can use a block, a box, or even empty boxes or cans, cartons, etc.

You can model pouring food, cooking food, drinking, and eating. You can model words like, “Yummy! Great job! Hot! Cold! Yucky! cup, plate, fork, all done, mine, yours, good,” etc. You can also label different food items, and even put them into categories. “Apple is a fruit.” “Chicken is meat.”

Cleveland Speech Therapists Encourage Parent Involvement!

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you play – but that you’re engaged. The best thing parents can do for their kids day in and out is talk to them. Narrate what you’re doing. Narrate what others are doing. Talk about colors, shapes, animals, weather, foods, people, cars – anything that captures their interest and imagination.

If you have questions about how you can engage your child during playtime, our speech therapy team can help!

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Akron and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

The Importance of Play: How Kids Learn by Having Fun, Sept. 28, 2020, Healthline.com

More Blog Entries:

Why Our Cleveland Speech Therapists LOVE Repetitive Picture Books for Kids, March 19, 2022, Cleveland Pediatric Speech Therapy Blog

self regulation

How We Help Kids Learn Self-Regulation

Self-regulation is the ability to manage your own emotions and behavior in a way that matches the demands of a given situation. All of us have had trouble at some time or another checking our emotions when we feel heated or excited. But learning to resist highly-charged emotional responses, calm yourself when you’re upset, adjust your expectations, and handle frustration without an outburst? That’s really a lot to ask of any child in a world that is so unpredictable – but it’s especially tough when a child struggles with a condition like autism, down syndrome, or other disability, disorder, or delay.

Our dedicated occupational therapists, speech therapists, behavior therapists, and educators are committed to helping children practice and master this critical life skill.

Why Do Some Kids Struggle With Self-Regulation? 

Difficulties with self-regulation can be displayed in a number of ways, depending on the child. Some kids will have an instantly major reaction to something with no real  build-up. They sort of “explode,” and aren’t able to inhibit that behavior response. Other kids will allow distress to build up for a time, but can only take it for so long before we see an emotional outburst. Even when those of us on the outside can see it building, we have little notion of how to stop it.

In either case, what we’re talking about is more than a simple tantrum, which every kid goes through, particularly in the toddler stage. Difficulty with self-regulation is a persistent, ongoing issue involving behavior that isn’t developmentally appropriate. It’s one thing for your child to throw a tantrum when they’re 2. It’s another for your child to be regularly melting down at age 5 or older.

What’s critical for us as a therapy team is help kids learn how to safely handle those big emotions, finding ways to adequately express them in a way that is more effective, less disruptive, and safer than a meltdown. Doing so requires we understand the why of the behavior.

In our experience, issues with emotional control are some combination of individual temperament, learned behavior, and the lack of communication/social skills needed to effectively communicate their emotions otherwise. Children with conditions like ADHD, autism, ODD, anxiety, or other conditions, learning to manage emotions is especially challenging and requires more outside help.

Teaching Kids Key Emotional Control Techniques

Learning emotional self-regulation is an important life skill, and some kids need more help to learn it than others.

We typically start by teaching young children to recognize the sensations and feelings in their body, and then putting those feelings into thoughts. How does your head feel? How does your skin feel? How does your heart feel? What is your breath doing? What “zone” of emotion are you in? (This can be color-coordinated for younger kids, with very basic, “red =mad, yellow=silly, blue=sad, green=happy,” etc.) Awareness is critical before change.

Once they master this, we can start teaching them about the “size of a problem.” Keeping it simple, we measure some problems as “big,” some “medium,” and some “small.” Then we talk about how to measure reactions in a similar way – big, medium, or small. When small problems have big reactions, that’s when we have the most trouble. The key is to try getting the size of the reaction to match the size of the problem. When it doesn’t, we ask them to reflect. Repetition on this is key.

Another strategy we use early on is to break challenging activities – the ones we know are going to lead to serious frustration – into smaller, more manageable parts. Our occupational therapists can help create social stories for this too, preparing them for each step and spelling out exactly what is expected of them.

Each time they act out, wait until they’re calm, and then ask: What went wrong? Why? How can we fix it for next time? How can we self-advocate for things we need or want without having a meltdown? This helps to create a pattern of mindfulness and thinking about the impact of their reactions. We also try to regularly remind them that at any point, they can “change the channel” of their emotions, by doing things like taking deep breaths, counting to 10, stretching, or taking a break.

Once they can tie feelings to thoughts, reflect on what went wrong, and advocate for themselves, then we can start working on affirmations and positive self-talk (i.e., “I can do this,” “I am brave,” “I am ok,”) etc.

If self-regulation is a skill with which your child struggles, we can help!

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides occupational therapy, speech therapy, behavior therapy, and homeschooling, tutoring, and social skills groups to children in Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Cleveland, Akron, and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

How Can We Help Kids With Self-Regulation? Child Mind Institute

More Blog Entries:

Brecksville ABA Therapists Offer “Time-Out” Alternatives, Feb. 6, 2022, Cleveland Occupational Therapy Blog

speech-language development

Does Baby Talk Boost Speech-Language Development?

Over the years, there’s been some debate about whether “baby talk” helps or hinders speech-language development for infants and toddlers. Before our Brecksville speech-language pathologists weigh in, it’s important to note there is a key difference between “baby talk” and “parentese.” Both are often cutesy and sing-song-y, but baby talk typically involves nonsense words (“shoesie-woosies” or “toesie-woesies”), while parentese involves exaggerated sounds and simple words and grammar (“Goooooo-dd morn-iiiiing!” and “haaaa-ppyyy!” and “brr-iiiiiight!”).

For all our differences across languages and cultures in the world, parentese is one near universal when it comes to teaching children to communicate. That is to say, parents and caregivers appear naturally drawn to use this speaking style around small children, perhaps because it’s proven so effective in getting a baby’s attention. It’s one of the first tools we offer to help babies learn to verbalize.

Extensive research shows that parentese – which has roots in “baby talk” – is actually critical for helping children learn language. Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with baby talk, at least really early on, parentese takes it to the next level with conscious attention to intonation and gestures. It’s also grammatically correct, even if simplified.

Brecksville speech therapy

Brecksville Speech Therapy Communication Boosters for Kids Under 5

Helping small children learn to communicate is something parents innately start virtually from the moment a child is born. But our Brecksville speech therapy team knows that fostering strong speech and language skills sometimes requires acting with a bit more purpose. Even if you have zero concerns about your child’s ability to communicate, there’s no harm in thoughtfully working to boost your child’s social skills and vocabulary.

As speech-language pathologists who work with young children in the process of acquiring and developing language, we have accumulated many effective techniques that help kids not only in learning to talk, but mastering broader language and communication skills. Here, we’re sharing some of the basics you can use with your child at home, in the community, and during everyday interactions. This is useful for kids with typically-developing speech and language, as well as those for whom such skills are a bit more challenging. Brecksville speech therapy for kids

Non-Verbal Communication

Talking isn’t the only communication skill on the table. In fact, it isn’t even the first. Babies communicate by crying. As they get older, they make eye contact, use body language, and point. Words eventually become the easiest way to convey specific wants, needs, and dislikes, but that comes later. As parents and caregivers, when we recognize, encourage, and positively reinforce those language precursors, we promote healthy speech-language production.

Interesting and of note: Language development and play are very closely related. Kids first start saying their first words around 12 to 13 months, and it’s not a coincidence that this is around the same time that symbolic play begins to emerge. (Symbolic play would be something like holding up a piece of fruit and pretending it’s a phone.) When you participate in that symbolic play, you’re encouraging her language development and helping to expand his/her capacity to represent things both mentally and symbolically.

Create Communication Opportunities

There are many ways parents can create opportunities to encourage their little ones to practice key communication skills. Some of those include:

  • Putting desired objects slightly out-of-reach. Instead of simply handing your child the milk you know they want, place it just out of reach of their high chair. Wait for them to ask for it, or at least signal their desire (point, make eye contact, etc.). Reinforce their communication by saying back to them, “You want the milk? Ok, momma will give you the milk.” Same thing for much-loved toys: Put them just a bit higher up (but not so high they can’t be seen.)
  • Pretend to be forgetful. Kids LOVE this game. You have lots of routines your child has probably already gotten used to – morning, afternoons, dinner time and bedtime. Let’s say you’re preparing her breakfast. “Forget” to pour the milk. She’s going to “catch” you being forgetful/changing the routine/what’s expected. This is a great way to initiate conversations with young kids.
  • Pause during predictable activities. Same concept as “forgetting,” but you’re waiting for them to fill in the blanks. You can start with a favorite song your child loves. “Mary had a little -” and then wait to see if she fills in the blank. That prompts her not only to use her vocabulary, but also practice the back-and-forth turn-taking of language.

Other Helpful Strategies from our Brecksville Speech Therapy Team

Speech and language are skills every child develops at their own pace, but the goal should always be to help them master the next level – while also boosting their self-confidence and keeping it fun!

Other techniques our Brecksville speech-language pathologists use:

  • Imitation. If the child is babbling or making nonsense noise, make another playful sound in response. Imitating a child’s sounds and actions – and later words – shows them that they have the ability to be heard! It also helps them begin to grasp the turn-taking element of language. Eventually, they’ll work their way to more complex communication skills.
  • Interpretation. If a child points to a toy, they are communicating that they want it. Our speech therapists take this to the next level by interpreting their non-verbal communication with a response like, “Truck! You want the truck.”
  • Expansion & recasting. If the child says, “white ball,” we respond by saying, “Yes, that’s a big, white ball.” If a child says, “monkey jump off bed,” we recast that grammar by responding with, “The monkey did jump off the bed.” We’re using intonation and stress to underscore the words on which we want the child to focus.
  • Comment and description. Rather than direct your child during playtime, play a newscaster. Give them the play-by-play. “You’re moving the yellow truck around the track.” “You’re putting the brown horse in the barn.” “You’re throwing me the ball!” This not only helps boost a child’s vocabulary, it’s going to help them organize those thoughts while they’re playing.
  • Contingent responses. This is important, but it’s often one of the toughest. It involves responding right away to any and all attempts at communication. That includes not just words, but gestures or other efforts to get your attention. Kids need to know that not only is communication in general important, but so specifically is their voice.
  • Labeling. You can do this with infants who aren’t talking yet as well as small children – label everything around them. Everything from the rain in the sky to the fruit on their plate to the dog you pass on the street. Label everything.
  • Labeling your praise. Rather than just saying, “Nice work,” get specific. “Nice work picking up your blue bunny and red ball,” or “Great job saying more milk please.” Not only does this boost language, it encourages expected behaviors and manners.

If you have any concerns about your child’s speech-language development, our Northeast Ohio pediatric SLP team can help!

Additional Resources:
More Blog Entries:
How Brecksville Speech Therapists Treat Kids With Aphasia, Nov. 3, 2021, Brecksville Speech Therapy Blog
Brecksville early intervention

Neuroplasticity and How it Relates to Brecksville Early Intervention Services

If your child has been recommended for Brecksville early intervention services, either due to developmental delays or a diagnosis of a condition like autism, Down syndrome, or cerebral palsy, odds are you’ve heard the term “neuroplasticity.”

That’s a somewhat intimidating word, but the concept is fairly straightforward – and important to understand if you’re considering the value of early intervention services, which are initiated before a child’s 5th birthday, or sooner if possible.

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change – to relearn, rewire, establish and strengthen important connections. If the brain is injured or developing atypically, neurons can be damaged, altered, or lost. The good news is that the brain can establish new pathways. There is a brief window of time with young children where the brain’s ability to form and reorganize synaptic connections – especially in response to learning or experience – is especially effective. This is called neuroplasticity.

Children’s minds are like little sponges, absorbing everything around them. It’s what gives them the “superpower” of learning the fundamentals of movement, language and basic independence (walking, talking, feeding, etc.) in just a few short years. If a child has a developmental delay or a condition that has made reaching typical developmental milestones challenging, intervening early with services like speech therapy, occupational therapy, ABA therapy, and physical therapy allows us to leverage a child’s natural neuroplasticity to help their brains create and reinforce new neural pathways that allow them to glean new skills, habits, and ways of thinking.

Kids social communication Brecksville speech therapists

How Our Brecksville Speech Therapists Help Boost Kids’ Social Communication

Social communication is the way we use language in social contexts, encompassing social interaction, social cognition, pragmatics and language processing. Our Brecksville speech therapists recognize that while many of us take the “rules” of these exchanges for granted, they can be tough for children with developmental delays, disabilities, and other challenges.

Most language is social. Social communication skills include the ability to:

  • Vary one’s speech style.
  • Recognize the perspective of others.
  • Understand – and appropriately use – rules for verbal/non-verbal communication.
  • Use the structural elements of language.

There is a fairly broad range of norms accepted across cultures, families and between individuals for social communication, but these skills are critical for effective back-and-forth conversations in a social situation. When a child struggles with verbal and non-verbal communication for social purposes, this may be diagnosed as social communication disorder.

child developmental regression

Child Developmental Regression & What To Do About It

Child developmental regression is when a child loses certain developmental skills they previously acquired. It might seem as if they’re almost moving backward in their development. This is different from developmental delay, when kids reach certain milestones later than expected or their developmental progress flattens or stalls.

The condition is pretty rare, though it is sometimes associated with a number of diagnoses, each warranting prompt attention and intervention. The good news is that for the more common conditions, treatment can be effective when problems are caught early.

Examples of the conditions most commonly associated with child developmental regression are:

  • Autism spectrum disorder. This condition isn’t always associated with child developmental regression, but as researchers have noted, it is the most frequent condition in which regression is diagnosed. In rare instances, it can be associated with Heller’s Syndrome, also known as child disintegrative disorder (CDD). This is characterized by late onset (age 3 and older) developmental delays, social function, motor skills, and even cognitive function. Children with CDD will develop typically for the first 2 to 10 years before sharply regressing.
  • Neurodegenerative disorders. These include conditions like Rett’s Syndrome and Metachromatic leukodystrophy.
  • Trauma or stress. Traumatic or stressful events can cause some children to regress in some respects or act younger than their age. Examples of this include things like potty accidents, sleep disturbances, decreased independence and behavior disruption.

For this article, we’re focusing primarily on regression as it pertains to autism. It should be noted though that with the other conditions, medications, therapies, and other supports are known to help manage symptoms, prevent complications, and improve life quality.

What We Know About Child Developmental Regression and Autism

Regression with autism appears to occur very rapidly or gradually. In either case, the child struggles to regain skills they’ve lost.

Some researchers have concluded that while regression among some kids with autism can be very real, many instances are more likely a pileup of deficits and missed indicators that finally become unmistakable. Parental reports that classify the onset of autism can often be flawed – not because parents aren’t paying attention to their kids, but because they usually aren’t child developmental experts who even know what to watch for.

In other words, loss of social interest or communication deficits can take place at varying ages and to different degrees – it just becomes more noticeable at certain points. When it happens to kids who are little older, it can appear drastic and sudden. When it happens in kids who are a lot younger, it can seem very subtle.

In the past, doctors used to think that “regressive autism” was a subtype of autism, but the more we learn about the condition, the more those lines have been blurred. One study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics found as many as 1 in 5 cases of autism involved regression – a rate that has risen as we’ve grown to include more people with unique presentations of autism.

Often, it looks something like this: An 18-month-old who seemed to be developing typically “withdraws suddenly,” ignoring his own name, talking less (to the point of not talking at all), ignoring engagement with other kids to play almost exclusively with inanimate objects, losing previous interests, and appearing to obsessively focus on a few things or activities. This may occur at the same time as the child begins to display behavior characterized as “odd” and repetitive.

Although doctors used to consider “regressive autism” to be its own subset of the condition, physicians increasingly argue that such classifications aren’t as pertinent because most kids with autism lose some skills, and there is a lot of variation on the types of skills they lose, to what degree, and at what age. A study published in the journal Autism in 2016 found that there were a range of onset patterns, with some parents reporting early developmental delays with no skill loss to no delays and then a clear loss of skills. Ultimately, this may tell us something about the onset of the condition, but it doesn’t necessarily change the approach and treatment in helping kids “catch up” in their social, emotional, and communication skills.

Child developmental regression typically occurs among children younger than 3, with the average age being around 21 months. The risk of children losing their developmental skills becomes increasingly unlikely the older they get, but early intervention speech therapy, occupational therapy, and ABA therapy can help them retain what they have and make gains where they’ve fallen behind.

Early Intervention Therapies Can Help Kids Who Have Developmental Regression

When it comes to children with autism, regardless of the onset pattern, waiting for the child to “catch up” on their own simply isn’t going to work.

Our Brecksville speech therapy, occupational therapy, ABA therapy, physical therapy, and special education team work together as a team in formulating an early intervention plan that can help children on the autism spectrum communicate, play, and learn. Our approach is going to be based on the skills they have compared to the skills they should be displaying for a child their age.

Therapy is not a “quick fix” solution. It is a commitment for families, but is well-established as one of the most effective means of treating children who’ve experienced developmental regression attributed to autism.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy, occupational therapy, ABA therapy, physical therapy, and special education services to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email

Additional Resources:

Why Act Early if You’re Concerned About Child Development, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

More Blog Entries:

At What Age Should My Child Begin Brecksville Speech Therapy? Oct. 16, 2021, Brecksville Speech Therapist Blog

Brecksville speech therapists treat childhood aphasia

How Brecksville Speech Therapists Treat Kids With Aphasia

Our Brecksville speech therapists are skilled at treating kids with aphasia, a speech-language disorder that adversely affects a child’s ability to communicate. A child with aphasia can experience numerous speech-language difficulties, such as understanding what’s being said, coming up with the right words to use, or saying words in the correct order.

As experienced speech-language pathologists, we help treat aphasia by evaluating the condition, determining the exact type, and providing consistent treatment over months and years.

Brecksville kids social group

Kids Ages 5-12 Social Group in Brecksville

Therapy & Wellness Connection is proud to offer Thrive Social Group sessions for school-age kids 5-12, every Wednesday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. We incorporate creative play, movement & music while teaching important social skills in this therapist-led group.

Our kids’ social group is offered in 6-week sessions for $180 total. The skills your child will learn and the fun they’ll have will be invaluable! Call today to reserve your child’s spot!

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – offers speech, occupational, physical & ABA therapy, as well as social groups, summer camp, day programs, homeschooling, alternative schooling, virtual therapy and education, vocational counseling and more. We’re headquartered in Brecksville, Ohio. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.