Types of Autism Therapies That Will Work Best for Your Child
There are a few treatments for autism spectrum disorder, such as Behaviour and Communication Approaches, Complementary and Alternate Approaches, Dietary Approaches and even highly experimental stem cell therapy. Although they do not guarantee 100% results or offer a cure, children with autism can do well with therapy that can help them cope with various symptoms. The sooner they receive therapy, say, preschool or earlier, the higher their chances of success, and it’s never too late for treatment. Read on for all the information you need to know about therapy for autism spectrum disorder and types of autism therapies.
Therapies That Can Help Treat Children With Autism?
Children with autism spectrum receive a number of therapies to help them build their social skills, fix sleep disorders or eating problems and even cope with issues such as anxiety, depression and mood disorders. Here are 8 of the most common therapies:
1. Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA)
ABA is the most widely used and accepted therapy for autistic children. It’s most effective when started at ages below 5 and works well for older children as well. The goal of ABA is to teach essential motor, verbal and social behaviours along with reasoning skills. It also works using behavioural therapy to manage challenging behaviour through observation and positive reinforcement. To accomplish this, it’s essential that the child spends 20 to 40 hours a week in extensive one-to-one therapy with the therapist, which can be quite expensive. However, it can be effectively done if the parent of the child trains in ABA so the positive behaviours can be reinforced constantly. It should also be noted that the skills to pick up the training methods for parents take time and effort.
2. Sensory Integration and Related Therapies
Sensory problems are common in children with an autism spectrum disorder. Some can be excessively sensitive to stimuli such as noises, lights and touch, while others may not be sensitive enough. There are multiple sensory therapies that are known to be successful in treating children with autism. Although the parents find improvement in the children, there have been no scientific studies done on the effectiveness of these approaches.
Therapists using sensory therapy work one-on-one with children to help them regulate their reactions to external stimuli. One example is hypersensitivity to being touched; the therapist aims at desensitising the child over time. They may use clothes of different textures to firmly stroke the child’s skin to get them accustomed to the sensations. The sessions are also aimed to make it enjoyable for the children so that it doesn’t seem to overwhelm them. There is no force involved, and their boundaries are pushed incrementally to help them improve.
There are a number of sensory therapies to address a range of problems that children with autism have. Some examples of autism therapy activities include music therapy, swinging, vibration therapy, aerobic exercise and many more.
3. Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)
The RDI training for autism is a recent development and a trademarked therapy for autism. Although RDI can be beneficial for people of all ages, the developers believe that training is most effective when started at a young age. The approach of RDI training involves teaching children to be flexible in their thinking and engage in social relationships with people. It starts with helping autistic children develop relationships with their parents and other members who are close such as relatives. Similar to many other therapies for the autism spectrum, RDI concentrates on the core deficit of the disorder- social interactions and skills. For the training to be successful, parents’ involvement is critical. They are taught how to use every possible opportunity as “teachable moments” where the child has a chance to engage and build better skills. Parents also need to make time for workshops, watching educational videos on the training, making videos on the interactions with their child and seeing a certified RDI program consultant.
4. Developmental, Individual Responses
This treatment for autism lays heavy emphasis on the parents and caretakers of the child. The therapy focuses on the relationship between the parents or caregivers with the child and many sensory inputs, such as sights, sounds, and smells experienced by the child on a daily basis.
5. Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapy for autism focuses on helping autistic children in getting better at normal everyday tasks to help them live an independent life. Many of the essential skills are taught, such as how to eat, how to bathe, how to dress, communicate with people, and how to relate to them. It can also extend to activities related to school or work or anything necessary for the child’s needs and goals.
6. Speech Therapy
Speech therapy plays a major role in helping children speak and communicate with people and also in how to interact with them. Non-verbal skills are emphasised, such as making eye contact, using and understanding gestures and taking turns in conversations. It could also involve teaching children to communicate or express themselves using sign language, picture symbols or computers. For speech therapy to be effective, the therapists work closely with parents, caretakers and teachers to develop these skills.
7. Dietary Approaches
Dietary approaches are advocated even by experts, although there is no scientific evidence to support their efficacy. It is believed by the advocates of this treatment that malnutrition of certain vitamins and minerals which play a significant role in brain development can lead to conditions such as autism to surface. It is also believed that the reluctance of parents to give fruits and vegetables to babies due to the fear of allergies could also be causing the problem. Another dietary restriction parents follow is the total avoidance of Gluten and Casein. Though there is not much evidence to show that a gluten and casein-free diet helps with autism, many parents follow the diets.
8. Complementary and Alternative Medicine
There has been an upward trend in applying complementary and alternative medicines to treat autism. Some of them involve removing heavy metals from the body, special diets, use of biological and body-based systems. There isn’t much evidence to prove any of them work to treat autism, and some of them are dangerous and controversial. Your doctor must always be consulted before opting for such treatments.
Different challenges faced by children with autism spectrum disorder require different approaches to treat them. Although it cannot be cured, great progress can be made toward helping children live relatively normal life.
1. What are the treatments for autism?; NICHD – NIH; https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/autism/conditioninfo/treatments
2. A parent’s guide to autism spectrum disorder; National Institute of Mental Health; https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/autism-spectrum-disorder; 2011
3. Treatment and Intervention Services for Autism Spectrum Disorder; CDC; https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/treatment.html
4. Reid. S; Autism Treatments, Therapies, and Interventions; HelpGuide.org; https://www.helpguide.org/articles/autism-learning-disabilities/autism-treatments-therapies-interventions.htm
5. Consumer Summary; Therapies for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder; Effective Health Care (EHC) Program; https://effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/products/autism-update/consumer; September 2014
6. 5 Types of Autism Behavior Therapy; Applied Behavior Analysis Programs Guide; https://www.appliedbehavioranalysisprograms.com/lists/5-types-of-behavior-therapy-for-individuals-with-autism/