Background: Since 2002, the government of Saga Prefecture, a state of Kyushu Island of Japan, has launched a unique screening system of young children with autism-spectrum disorders (ASD) in combination with community-based health check-ups of infants and toddlers. It consists of two steps of screening: the first step to check development of children and to serve an open consultation for their mothers regarding child rearing, and to screen any diseases and developmental abnormalities by pediatricians; the second step to detect children with high risk of ASD by well-trained public nurses. We previously reported the effectiveness of our screening system of community-based health check-ups by public health nurses for detecting young children with high risk of ASD (Haramaki et al., IMFAR 2012). Clearly, there is a strong need for the early intervention system for these identified very young high-risk children with ASD. In 2011, we started the subsequent programs, including the early diagnosis in collaboration with Hizen Psychiatric Center and the early intervention for ASD infants by employing the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) as one of the main strategies and supporting for infant’s mothers. One-to-one treatment sessions and counseling were provided for each child and mother, respectively.
Objectives: To examine the effectiveness of the Early Intervention System of Saga Model on developmental progress of high-risk children with ASD as well as mental condition of their mothers.
Methods: All ASD high-risk children and their mothers were administered with the Saga Autism Early Intervention program. Developmental progress of children was measured by ADOS, PARS and other developmental scales. Depression and anxiety of mothers were assessed by self-report questionnaires.
Results: 20 children and mothers were recruited into the program since October, 2011. The data of all children showed remarkable progress on the developmental scale and a considerable decrease in ADOS scores. Concurrently, depression scale scores of mothers declined.
Conclusions: The one-to-one style of the early intervention strategies may be effective for treating children with ASD even at very young age of 18 to 36 months after birth. The ESDM appears very useful as the guideline for this life stage of ASD children. Supporting for young mothers also helps them to take daily care easier at home.