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Autism therapy (A guide)

In this blog post for “autism therapy”, we will discuss the most common therapies used for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  

Autism therapy: How many are there?

There are several, but the most common therapeutical approaches include the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), Treatment of Autistic and Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH), Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA), sensory integration and speech and language therapy. 

Many treatments have been proposed for treating Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) where specialized and supportive educational programming, communication and social skill training, and behavioral therapy are contemplated to be the most effective.

Interdisciplinary approaches include occupational and physical therapy to address co-morbid difficulties such as coordination and sensory deficits.

In regards to behavioral therapy as is the case of ABA (most empirically supported by far), the main goal is the improvement of severe behavioral problems in several areas such as language, social or academic skills.

Autism therapy: What is it supposed to do?

There are many approaches to the topic of Autism Therapy, however, we mention some of the most used and known therapies. 

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

This type of therapy teaches children to trade pictures for items or activities.

This is specially designed for those who don’t speak, are difficult to understand or can’t understand.

Some studies have shown it can improve communication but there could be little o no gains in speech. 

TEACCH

As mentioned by the National Autistic Society, some of the TEACCH Autism Program priorities are:

  • Personal focus approach, their skills, interests, and particular needs.
  • Active participation in the “culture of autism” identifying differences based on individualized assessments
  • Usage of visual aids to organize the environment and tasks when teaching new or underdeveloped skills. 
  • Supportive approach ion various contexts, not only when teaching new skills.
  • Being flexible and teaching flexibility.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

This approach is based on behaviorist theories (learning principles) that systematically target desired and disruptive behaviors through a system of rewards and consequences.

It has been proven through research that this type of therapy uses reinforcement as the main way of improving social, communication and the process of learning new skills.

Some centers such as the Centria Autism Services can also be visited for ABA therapy.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy teaches daily life skills (to achieve a certain level of independence) such as dressing, bathing, eating and how to interact with other people. 

Sensory Integration Therapy

Since one of the main characteristics of people with autism is heightened sensory overload.

Within Sensory integration, therapy, the main idea is to help the person to deal with sensory information (sights, touch, sounds, and smells). 

Speech Therapy

Speech therapy helps to improve communication skills, where some might be able to learn verbal communication skills and others, can start learning and using gestures or picture boards as a way of communication.

For example, Attention Autism is an intervention used in improving communication skills of children with Autism.

Where can I find professionals specialized in autism therapy?

There are many organizations and research-based centers that can provide specialized in a range of options on autism therapy for children and adults, but here we just mention a few of them:

The main idea is to ask as many questions as you can to make sure they are the right fit and for you have the certainty that they can actually help you either because you have a child with autism or you have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

The centers and societies mentioned above are very helpful for parents who have autistic children or adults with the same condition.

Where on one hand we have such good places to seek help from, on the contrary their are other organisations such as Autism speaks whose main motive is not the treatment of autistic people but their own personal gains.

Autism and medication: another option related to autism therapy?

The most commonly prescribed autism medications to treat autistic symptoms are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as sertraline (Zoloft) or fluoxetine (Prozac).

Even when there is clinical evidence on the currently used medication, approving their usage and considered safe for use with children, they are not specifically developed for autism.

When dealing with a difficult child or adolescent with autism, medication seems to be the solution to all the problems.

However, this is not a cure for a lifelong condition such as anxiety and must be handled carefully because not everyone responds to medicine the same way and it actually comes with the possibility of developing some side effects.

As you all know, children don’t like taking medicines and often resist.

So for them, the cartoon sesame street can help in trying to make them do certain activities which might help.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) about autism therapy.

What is the most effective treatment for autism?

The most effective treatment is when both medicine and therapy are combined, according to several studies.

Risperidone (Risperdal) is the only FDA approved drug for the treatment of autism spectrum disorder in children and can be prescribed for children between 5 and 16 years old to alleviate irritability. 

What therapies are used for autism?

Some of the most used and effective therapies for autism are occupational therapy, speech therapy, ABA, RDI, and sensory therapies. 

How does therapy help with autism?

Therapy can help to improve autism by targetting some of the affected skills so people living with autism can become as independent as possible.

For example, occupational therapy can help foster skills like play, self-help or problem-solving.

What are the 5 different types of autism?

The types of autism have been regrouped into 3 categories according to the latest update on the DSM-5, instead of 5 types as it was accepted before.

These categories are:

  1. Autistic Disorder:  also known as autism, childhood autism, early infantile autism, Kanner’s syndrome or infantile psychosis.
  2. Asperger Syndrome: also known as Asperger’s disorder or simply Asperger’s.
  3. Pervasive Developmental Disorder (Not Otherwise Specified), also known as PDD (NOS) or atypical autism.

Does autism go away?

Autism is thought to be a lifelong condition, but there is a small group of parents that have reported their child no longer having the core symptoms of autism.

Thomas Frazier, a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic might disagree with a child getting rid of autism, instead, he says this could be due to the wrong diagnosis to start with or replacing this diagnosis with another.

Why is this blog post about “Autism therapy” important?

This blog related to autism therapy is important because it provides an insight into the possibilities of improving the lives of people with autism through the existing therapeutical approaches available, that can potentially help to overcome some of the challenges they endure in their daily activities and interactions.

Recommended reading

  1. Music Therapy and Autism Across the Lifespan: A Spectrum of Approaches
  2. The Parent’s Guide to Occupational Therapy for Autism and Special Needs: Practical Strategies for Motor Skills, Sensory Integration, Toilet Training, and More
  3. Art Therapy with Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder
  4. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Second Edition
  5. Understanding and Working with the Spectrum of Autism: An Insider’s View

References

Child Autism UK: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and Autism.

Autism Spectrum Therapies

Hindawi: Autism Research and Treatment

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