There's hope in B.C.'s autism community that new funding from the provincial government will help make severe cases of autism a thing of the past.

The B.C. government announced Monday $3 million of funding for a new initiative on parent coaching intervention for infants and toddlers showing early signs of autism.

Autism is a growing issue, with one in 69 children in B.C. receive funding for the condition from the provincial government, according to Deborah Pugh, executive director of Autism Community Training. She is also chair of a steering committee for the new Parent Coaching Intervention Research Project.

"Children who have early intervention of this sort, can actually avoid the worst developments within autism," said Pugh.

"What we really want to do is empower parents. We want parents to realize it's not about hiring professionals who will fix their kids."

Intervening early

The average age of diagnosis in B.C. for those with autism is seven, according to Pugh. But parents often know there is something wrong much earlier, she said, recalling her own experience with her 24-year-old autistic son.

"At the age of about a year, 14 months, 18 months, I was worried about him and I didn't know what it was," she said.

The good news is parents are more aware about what autism may look like now, which means there is opportunity to intervene at a very early stage, said Pugh.

Parent coaching intervention

Trying to interact with a child with autism can be frustrating for parents. Pugh says some parents, understandably, give up when they get no response from their child. But that can make autism worse.

"Well for most children with autism — not all — they don't actually respond, so the parents give up. So the child doesn't get that stimulation from the parent."

The key with parent coaching intervention is teaching parents how to relate to their child even if they receive little or no response, said Pugh.

"What we're hoping this project can do is to have professionals come into the family home and coach the parent on how to relate to their child."

One of the groups the project will focus on is parents who already have one child with autism, because there is a 15 per cent chance that another child in the family will also have autism, according to Pugh.

The parent coaching intervention method allows parents to act right away, without waiting for an autism diagnosis, if they are concerned about their second child.

To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled: $3 million in autism funding for new parent coaching intervention initiative.