Tyler Is a 4-Year-Old Boy Who Goes to a Neighborhood Preschool, Likes to Build Large Structures with Legos and Can Identify All the Letters of the Alphabet. an Early Childhood Special Educator Helps His Teacher Adapt Activities So He Can Learn

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Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Valerie Close and Judy Newman For The Register-Guard

Tyler is a 4-year-old boy who goes to a neighborhood preschool, likes to build large structures with Legos and can identify all the letters of the alphabet. An early childhood special educator helps his teacher adapt activities so he can learn.

Ryan is a 4-year-old boy who goes to an intensive specialized preschool where he practices specific skills and is learning to use pictures to com- municate.

Tyler and Ryan both have autism, yet these boys have very different educational needs.

Ten years ago, the knowledge and skills needed to provide high-quality educational programs for children like Tyler and Ryan were still in the early stages of development.

As the number of children diagnosed with autism has risen dramatically over the past decade, research into effective teaching strategies has also increased.

EC Cares, Lane County's early intervention program, and local school districts have put tremendous resources and effort into implementing evidence-based techniques to help children with autism.

Children with autism are being diagnosed at younger ages, often in the toddler and preschool years.

The earlier intervention begins, the better the results.

If parents are concerned about the development of their baby or preschooler, a phone call to EC Cares will quickly start the process of getting help.

There is no waiting list, and all services are provided at no charge.

A developmental specialist will gather information over the phone and then schedule an initial screening, usually within one week of a parent's call.

If a child appears to have delays, a complete developmental evaluation is then scheduled.

For most children, the process from phone call to having an educational plan in place takes about five weeks.

Accurate identification of autism in a young child is sometimes challenging.

Autism is a `spectrum disorder," meaning that children with autism have a range of skills and abilities, with the common thread being difficulty in communication and social skills. A diagnosis of autism is given only after a child has met several criteria with characteristics that are maintained over time and are seen in different settings.

The evaluation process can feel lengthy to parents, yet most pro- fessionals believe in the importance of careful diagnosis so that an educational team's determination that a child has autism is an accurate description of the child's learning style. …