Are After-school Programs and Intervention programs the Same?

Recently, a parent asked about her child with autism.  Her question came down to, “Does he really need intervention or is daycare enough?”

A daycare offers many opportunities for the development of social interaction and social communication for a neuro-typical child. In addition, the curriculum mandates that children be offered a variety of experiences that serve to expand their knowledge and interests.

A child with autism has neurological differences that impact three primary areas:

  1. Social interaction

  2. Social communication

  3. Restricted interests 

It has long been known that best practice for children with autism dictates early and intensive intervention. We are extremely fortunate that our province of N.B., Canada,  recognizes this and therefore provides 20hrs of intensive intervention for preschool age children.  Because of this, our preschool children with ASD have the opportunity of improving in the above mentioned areas of difficulty.

Intervention is based upon:

  • Continuous assessment,

  • Goal selection based upon assessment results,

  • Data gathering, and

  • Progress monitoring. 

Progress for a child with ASD is typically the result of intervention, which intentionally structures the environment to give the child many opportunities to practice a target skill.

If a child with ASD is receiving excellent intensive intervention, daycare can be a great environment to generalize a child’s social learning, especially if the care givers understand the learning needs specific to children with ASD.

Age five, or the date for which a child enters school, does not mean that autism disappears.  It only means that funding for intervention stops.

In the same manner that preschool children with ASD need explicit intervention, so do school age children. In the same manner that daycare does not serve as intervention for preschool children, neither do after-school programs substitute for intervention for school age children. 

School age children need explicit intervention that targets the core deficits of ASD. Children with Autism require intervention at all ages. After-school programs provide a great environment for generalizing social skills. Intervention gives children the social skills to generalize.


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