Unfortunately, there is no cure for autism. However, early intervention has proven to reduce symptoms, improve cognitive ability and daily living skills, and maximize the ability of your child to participate and function in a community. Since social, behavior and cognitive challenges are part of the autism diagnosis, treatment plans are usually multidisciplinary.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) highly urges parents to research therapies as soon as they suspect their child has autism. It can take a lot of tests, follow-ups, and time with specialists to get a formal diagnosis. Unfortunately, no single education plan works for all children. Every child is unique and has his/her unique strengths and challenges. Therefore, researching the best therapy can get quite perplexing. To help, we’ve created a list of proven and effective therapies to consider if your child has autism.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy
A notable treatment approach for children with autism is called applied behavior analysis. According to the Center for Autism, ABA therapy helps autistic clients improve social interactions, learn new skills, and maintain positive behaviors. A therapist who specializes in this field will break down skills into component parts and through encouragement, reinforcement, and repetition, the therapist will help a child learn and acquire these skills.
ABA therapists understand how human behaviors are learned and how they can be altered over time. The therapist will evaluate a client’s behavior and develop a treatment plan to help improve the behavior and social skills necessary for success in their personal and professional lives.
Occupational therapy teaches children how to adapt. Children with autism struggle with daily normal tasks, including getting dressed, communicating with others, playing games, bathing, etc. Fortunately, occupational therapists study human growth and development and a person’s interaction with the environment through daily activities. Through occupational therapy, your child will learn skills that will help him/her live as independently as possible.
Speech therapy addresses challenges with language and communication. This form of therapy will help children with autism improve their nonverbal, verbal, and social communication skills.
Communication and speech-related challenges vary from child to child. Some autistic children are not able to speak. On the other hand, some autistic children love to talk but have trouble holding a conversation or understanding body language and facial expressions when talking with others. Regardless, the overall goal is to help the child communicate in a more useful and functional way.
Sensory Integration Therapy
Many children with autism have sensory problems. Sensory issues became an official part of the diagnosis, described as hyperreactivity or hyporeactivity to sensory input. Children who struggle with this will exhibit indifference to pain/temperature, excessive smelling or touching of objects, visual fascination with lights or movement, etc. Sensory dysfunction can interfere with so many normal daily activities. Fortunately, sensory integration therapy was developed to help children with autism lower their reactivity and improve their ability to participate in activities.
You and your child's therapist may need to experiment with a variety of therapeutic options to determine which works best for him/her. Every child is unique and may require more than one of these therapeutic approaches listed above.