How early intervention is helping babies with possible autism spectrum disorder

Posted 1 month ago by Georgie Waters
A new NDIA-funded trial has had positive effects on babies who present with early signs of autism spectrum disorder. [Source: Shuttershock]
A new NDIA-funded trial has had positive effects on babies who present with early signs of autism spectrum disorder. [Source: Shuttershock]

Results from a new trial funded by the NDIA could make a difference for babies who present with delayed communication skills.

Key points:

  • Early results from a new trial suggest that babies with possible autism spectrum disorder can improve their communication skills
  • No person with autism spectrum disorder will present with symptoms in exactly the same way as someone else


The first results from a new trial funded by the NDIA showed the benefits of early intervention for communication in babies aged between six – 18 months. 

The program, called Inklings, has received 13.8 million dollars from the NDIA and is expected to help 700 families in WA over the next three years. 

For each WA family involved in the free trial, support through the Inklings program may be given in-clinic or via telehealth through 10 sessions.

Other organisations have partnered with the NDIA, including Telethon Kids, Child and Adolescent Service and WA Country Health Service to help babies who are showing possible delays in communication, which can be a symptom of autism spectrum disorder. 

One to two percent of 100 Australians currently have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, however, trends from the Australian Bureau of Statistics suggest that this number is rising. 

Increased awareness and understanding of autism spectrum disorder in the Australian community are possible reasons for more people seeking a diagnosis. Health professionals are also becoming increasingly aware of what symptoms to look for — no person with autism spectrum disorder will present with exactly the same symptoms.

With researchers now understanding the importance of early intervention for many disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, the Inklings program may produce positive long-term effects for the children involved. 

The minister for NDIS, Bill Shorten, spoke briefly about aspects of the Inklings program and how it’s different from the current NDIS.

“While the NDIS is and will always be there for those who need it, including children with autism, Inklings allows parents and carers to do vital early engagement with the guidance of a trained practitioner, to learn strategies to build on their own strengths as a responsive communication partner for their baby,” said Minister Shorten.

Minister Shorten understands that there are many benefits of a program such as Inklings.

“The NDIA is thrilled to partner with Inklings, which has seen great results for the children who took part throughout [the] trial. It showcases the NDIA’s commitment to make sure children get the best support they need, informed by best research and practice,” Minister Shorten said. 

Researchers have been studying the effectiveness of ‘Video-feedback Intervention to promote Positive Parenting’ for years and have consequently incorporated it into the Inklings trial. This includes the parent recording videos of themselves interacting with their baby. A trained health professional will discuss the content of the recordings with the caregiver/s to assist them in recognising their baby’s communication methods and how to best react.

While there are differences in how quickly children will reach expected milestones, this trial aims to help parents who are concerned about their baby’s social and communicative skills or if their baby is not demonstrating the appropriate social interactions for their age. 

Some early social interaction skills expected of a one-year-old baby can include:

  • using eye contact to get attention;
  • holding up objects for a reaction;
  • babbling with others as if in conversation.

If you live in WA and are looking to get assistance for your baby through this program, complete your details in this survey to be assessed for eligibility or phone the Inklings line at (08) 6319 1155.


Are you the caregiver of a young baby? How do you help them develop communication skills?

Let the team at Talking Disability know your thoughts on social media. 

For more information related to disability news, subscribe to the FREE weekly newsletter.

Relevant content:

Autism spectrum disorder in females: late diagnosis

The Disability Support Guide to discussing autism spectrum disorder behaviour

SA Minister for Autism has a “complex problem to solve”