Early diagnosis and how it helps your child

Preschool age Hispanic little boy with Down Syndrome is smiling and clapping while playing with building blocks in preschool classroom. Teacher, mother, or therapist is praising child while teaching him.

When it comes to conditions like autism, parents may be reluctant to get an early diagnosis. Perhaps it’s out of fear of the unknown; perhaps you don’t want your child labelled at such an early age. Yet it’s now widely recognised that children with a disability will do better later in life if they are diagnosed early. The earlier, the better.

Here are some of the reasons why identifying your child’s condition early on could help them and you.

Helping you understand your child

A key benefit of early diagnosis is the simple idea that it can help you understand how your child sees the world, particularly in the case of conditions like autism.

Knowing more about how their little mind works can help to explain challenging behaviours. Armed with this understanding, you may be a little more tolerant of their trying tantrums. Even better, you may be able to help them communicate what’s on their mind, to eliminate those tantrums. Also, you can explain to your other children why their brother or sister behaves the way they do – helping to build their empathy and patience, too.

For other conditions, early diagnosis means that you can get a head start on making changes around the house to make your child’s life more comfortable as they grow.

A head-start with intervention

Did you know that younger children’s brains are more malleable? This heightened neuroplasticity (to use the technical term) makes it easier for health professionals to do their job of trying to change a child’s behaviour.

According to Autism Awareness Australia, it’s recommended that young children receive between 15 and 20 hours of targeted early intervention.1 Yet there is no single treatment or therapy for a condition like autism. If your child is diagnosed early, you can get a head-start on researching all the different types of intervention and finding a service provider that’s right for your child and your family.

Many early interventions are family-centred, which means that your whole family learns how to help your child. The earlier this starts, the sooner your family can adapt to meet the needs of your child.

Get earlier access to financial support

Raising a child with a disability is at least three times as expensive as raising other children.2  The earlier your child is diagnosed, the faster you can start to access funding through services like the NDIS.

In fact, the NDIS itself recognises the benefit of early intervention. It has a special funding stream called Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) for children between zero and six years of age. The idea behind ECEI is that children who receive intervention early on may be less reliant on the NDIS later in life.

The funding you receive can help to pay for the support services your child needs to manage their condition. It may mean that you can afford different types of therapy that may have otherwise been beyond your family’s budget.

Small steps, long-term gains

For conditions like autism, it may feel at first that early intervention isn’t making a difference. Don’t give up. Every small step you take will make a big difference down the track, helping them to lead a full and happy life as they get older.

Of course, if you are at all concerned that the early intervention program you’ve chosen isn’t working, then by all means explore other options. The good news is that, by starting early, you’ve got plenty of time to find what’s right for your child.