Treatment And Therapies For Autism
Applied Behavior Analysis Training (ABA)
ABA is one of the most widely accepted therapeutic remedies for autism. It is based on the idea that people engage in repeated behaviors which are recognized or rewarded more than they do in those that are ignored.
ABA helps children with autism and other related disorders who exhibit unwanted behaviors like head-banging or slapping others. It can be very difficult and frustrating for parents and caregivers to reduce these behaviors and they often end up making these behaviors occur more frequently when they try to discourage them. With ABA, autistic children are helped to develop a number of skill sets and, at the same time, to reduce the presentation of problematic behaviors.
How does it work?
ABA training should be conducted by a highly trained specialist. Since autistic children display different behaviors and have specific learning needs, the therapist starts the training with an assessment of the child to determine which skills the child already has and the behaviors he has to work on. The therapist would then be able to develop an ABA program specifically tailored to meet the needs of the child, with the goal to increase the child’s skills in many areas, including academic development, communication skills, and social skills. These goals are reached by the child through a series of steps that the therapist has created and he learns new skills through the use of different procedures. The therapist normally spends 20 to 40 hours per week of one-on-one time with the child.
One procedure is discrete trial training in which the child is presented with a cue to which the child may or may not respond appropriately. An appropriate response is rewarded by something that the child enjoys. This way, the child is motivated to continue exhibiting the desired behavior.
Discrete trial training is only one of the simpler procedures that ABA training employs. There are other procedures that help the autistic child function better in their complicated environment by teaching him to generalize the skills being learned to different environmental settings. Incidental teaching of skills throughout the day and analysis of tasks are important parts of the program, through which an autistic child learns to perform multiple steps to carry out specific tasks.
Is ABA training the right therapy for my child?
ABA training is most effective when it is started during the first 5 years of a child’s life, although it also works with older autistic children. Many hours of extensive one-on-one therapy every week is needed to maximize the benefit from this training program. This could be very expensive. Aside from being cost-effective, by obtaining ABA training yourself, the program will also benefit your child more because you can teach and reinforce positive behaviors all the time. Your child will learn to generalize the skills being learned and reduce the occurrence of your child engaging in inappropriate behavior.
Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)
A husband-and-wife team of clinical psychologists (Steven Gutstein, PhD and Rachelle Sheely, PhD) developed Relationship Development Intervention or RDI. RDI training teaches children how to engage in social relationships with other people, typically starting by developing relationships with their parents.
RDI training is relatively new but its developers, using common diagnostic tests for autism, have shown significant improvement in children who underwent RDI training.
How does it work?
Before RDI training begins, a complete professional assessment of the child is necessary, done by a neurologist and with an evaluation using standardized autism diagnostic scales.
Parents should prepare for the training by learning the principles of RDI first by either participating in an intensive workshop or watching a special five-hour DVD. A certified Relationship Development Intervention program consultant then develops an RDI program. Parents would serve as the child’s main coach during the early stages of therapy and the sessions are documented by video. RDI program consultant, on the other hand, helps the parents work with the child as effectively as possible by updating the objectives set for the child with the aid of feedback from the parents and taped documentation.
Social relationships of the child with their parents and other people are developed with the help of various activities and the guidance of the consultant. Playing games, like “hot potato” or mimicking expressions in facial images, are very effective activities in relationship development.
Is RDI training the right therapy for my child?
RDI training may benefit people with autism of all ages, although it is most effective when training is received at a young age. It requires plenty of time commitment from the parents and can also be expensive. Attending workshops or watching videos in order to learn how to provide an effective intervention program to your child is a must. Providing regular feedback to your certified RDI consultant through videotaped parent-child sessions is also necessary.
Sensory Integration and Related Therapies
Sensory problems are also most commonly presented by children with autism. They may either be oversensitive or not sensitive enough to sensory stimuli like lights, noises, and touch. Sensory responses of children with autism can be regulated by the employment of various sensory therapies.
How does it work?
The goal of one-on-one sensory therapy with a child is to help regulate his reaction to external stimuli. The activities conducted by a skilled therapist should be enjoyable and game-like to make sure that the therapy does not overwhelm the child.
With a hypersensitivity to being touched, for example, desensitization of the child to tactile stimuli is the goal of the therapist. He can do this by using different textured fabrics to stroke the child’s skin to make the child get accustomed to the sensations. Sometimes, the therapist would need to push the child’s limits to help him improve.
There are various sensory therapies that can be used for a variety of autism problems. If a child is hyperactive, this can be reduced by spinning the child in a chair. Deep pressure stimulation also helps promote calmness by safely rolling the child up in a mat, for example. Swinging, vibration therapy, and aerobic exercise are other methods of sensory therapy.
Is sensory therapy the right therapy for my child?
Compared to the other forms of therapies, sensory therapy does not require much time commitment from the parent and the child. But some experimentation may be required at first to determine which of the various options best suit your child. Fast results usually mean that the therapy is effective, but the level of improvement that can be obtained from sensory therapy depends on the child.
Natural and Homeopathic Therapies
With far fewer risks and side effects, natural and homeopathy are viable alternative to synthetic drugs and can actually be more effective and safe. This is because, the approach address the underlying issues and not just treat the symptoms of autism. Ingredients such as St. John’s Wort, Melissa officinalis, Chamomila and Passiflora may be recommended as part of a holistic treatment plan. It is also beneficial to incorporate biochemic tissue salt combinations to support brain and mood functioning.