Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD is one of the mental health disorders that concern a lot of families. If left untreated or diagnosed, this could be detrimental to a child when he/she grows up into a full-grown adult. Professionals agree that intervention in the early years of a child with autism makes a lot of difference.
Early intervention is highly encouraged for at least two years before a child attends his first day of school. This gives room for the child to prepare himself with enough skills to immerse with other children in the school.
Autism Spectrum Disorder Therapy: An Effective Treatment
Once a child is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the doctor will recommend intervention as soon as possible. Children as young as 6 months can already be diagnosed with ASD and screenings are recommended to achieve the best prognosis. At present, there are more than a few evidence-based therapies that can help children cope with their condition. These are:
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)
Speech Therapy and Pharmacological Therapy
Each of these treatments is performed and overseen by board-certified therapists.
ABA Therapy aims to change the behaviour of a child which encourages positive over negative behaviours. This is considered the “gold standard” of treatment for children with autism and other conditions related to developmental function.
An ABA therapist, therefore, teaches an autistic child the necessary skills to adapt to life situations for a better quality of life. The therapist may either provide these interventions according to the age of the child, areas of challenge and other concerning factors:
Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI)
Pivotal Response Training
Discrete Trial Teaching
Early Start Denver Model
Note: Aside from autism treatment, ABA Therapy can also be used to treat dementia, anger issues or borderline personality disorder.
An ABA therapist first provides a functional behavioural assessment on a child, checking strengths, abilities and weaknesses. This initial process is all about interacting with the child and observing behaviour and other skills. Consultation and assessment may be done at home and specific interventions may then be discussed for the child.
The therapist then devices a plan on how to carry out the intervention suited for the child. This usually aligns with the special needs of the child with ASD and the goals to achieve in the treatment. People involved in the plan should know their roles so that the child will have reduced problematic behaviours such as self-injury or tantrums. They should also help improve good communication with the child as well as his other skills.
Parents, teachers and caregivers are the usual team members of an ABA therapist and working on the same page helps in improving the child’s condition. That is why a plan is crucial prior to treatment. The therapist then trains and teachers the people involved in the treatment and then provides frequent evaluation to check on the progress of the child. Each goal is unique because it depends on the specific needs of a child with autism. The usual end results after ABA therapy are the following:
Having more focus
Increased interest in people within their surrounding
Effective communication with other people
Fewer melt-downs or tantrums
Cost of ABA Autism Therapy in Toronto
Autism therapy is a long and tedious process. An ABA therapist usually provides treatment for 40 hours a week for every child. This is what experts recommend although most therapists do 10 to 20 hours every week. Ultimately, the number of hours comes down to the specific needs of a child.
In Toronto, autism therapists charge CAD 24 per hour on average. Factors that influence the cost depend actually on the level of education, experience and geographical location. ABA therapists who are in their early career usually charge around CAD 20 per hour while those who have at least 10 years of experience cost as much as CAD 30 per hour.
A lot of people may wonder why an autism therapist costs a lot and that is because this field is very special and consumes time. Generally, autism therapists focusing on different areas such as speech occupational, physical and pharmacological, cost around the same amount depending on different factors.
These therapists are highly trained and have the utmost patience that other people cannot offer. They work directly with your child and are equipped with education, experience and skills. Because of the high demand for their services, it can be challenging to book a therapist for a consultation.
Autism therapists are important because they give families time to go back to their daily lives and other family members such as the younger or older siblings will be taken care of. Having a child with autism can be tough and disrupt the normal activities of every member of the family. That is why having an experienced professional helps in restoring the balance, little by little.
Cost-effective Ways of Availing Therapy for Children with Autism
If the cost of getting the help of an Autism therapist is challenging for the family, there are options that help fund such professional services. One is insurance. In Toronto, some health insurance plans cover a part of the entire cost. Employees can easily inquire from the human resources department and discuss the possibilities of having insurance take care of a fraction of the therapy expenses for your child.
Most schools fund therapy for children with autism and it is based primarily on the institution’s initial assessment and evaluation. There are also specialized centers that offer financial help to families who are in need of therapists. At present, the pandemic has made it hard for parents to even have their child assessed for ASD. A cost-effective approach available today is having such services through Telehealth or Teleconsultation services. This only needs a computer and a stable internet connection. With the changing times, anything is possible if you need help with the special needs of your child with ASD.
Children are fun to talk to, and heartwarming because they speak through their hearts and minds. They speak the truth and the simplicity of life that is beautiful and full of hope. Some children, however, are experiencing one or several mental illnesses and cannot voice out how they feel. So they curl up and hide their true emotions until they explode. That is only when a parent notices that the child is troubled and might need special medical intervention. It is not too late though as there are doctors who can diagnose how a child is thinking and feeling without hampering anything. These are your trusted child counsellors.
What Is Child Counselling?
Child counselling is a specialized type of therapy wherein a trained professional in this field focuses on children having mental illnesses. Aside from very young children, this therapy can also help teens and adolescents who have experienced a dysfunctional environment or trauma. Mental illness can take a toll on a child’s life, and that is why it is necessary to seek professional intervention at an early stage.
Through child counselling, a child may be able to open up and share his/her feelings, thoughts and certain issues. Once these are out, the specialist may then work with the child side by side to better cope and heal along the process. Child counselling is a form of therapy in which the child and specialist work together in setting goals and learning new skills to have a better life. A child who has had counselling often shows overall life improvement and helps the entire family go back into living a normal life.
Child Counsellors and Experts in Toronto
In Toronto, Ontario, there are a lot of child counsellors and therapists that offer these invaluable services. They focus on giving insights pertaining to a child’s particular socio-emotional development and overall mental health. Child counsellors are very meticulous about such details that not all people cannot distinguish. These specialists are highly trained for this condition and thus the best individuals to seek help from.
Child counsellors, or also called child psychologists or therapists, have special training in this type of field. Their labels depend on the level of licensure they have achieved in their academic lives. They are equipped with knowledge, skills and expertise to be able to identify, distinguish, assess, diagnose and treat children who are suffering from psychological distress, family and peer issues, and other mental health conditions in their lives.
The vulnerable youth is the main target group of child counsellors. Parents often misunderstand their child for bad behaviour because they simply do not know his real mental health situation. Child counsellors come in and help resolve those issues. The aim of all counsellors in the field is to help these children come out of their shell, speak and interpret issues they are experiencing at the moment. This is a very challenging task but it has to be done so that this does not have a negative impact on a child’s developmental milestones as he grows old. Mental illness, if left untreated at an early stage, may cause delays in his development as he matures into an adult in the following years.
When Should You Seek a Counsellor?
Parents often have a hard time knowing when to seek a counsellor for their child. Often mistaken as bad behaviour, it can be very challenging and the cause why most children are not helped out in the early stage. But when you notice a change in your child’s behaviour or if you feel he/she is struggling with something, that is the best time to have a counsellor speak to your child.
Remember that a counsellor technically has the “know-how” in making a child calm down and voice out his thoughts and feelings. So instead of struggling in doing this yourself, let the professional take care of the situation. They are better equipped and can even offer parents the tools needed to deal with any issues your child is having.
How Much Does Child Counselling Cost?
Child counsellors or psychologists have taken enough education to be able to provide families with the help they need. In Ontario and most other provinces, it takes a total of 3000 hours of clinical experience to be able to get a license for child counselling. That’s why most parents trust these professionals and would spend any amount just to help their child cope and make a recovery.
Child counselling fees cost an average of CAD 36 per session in the Toronto area. The number of sessions a child sees a counsellor depends on the severity of his situation. In a week, an average of 2 to 3 sessions is suggested for each child. Most experienced counsellors or psychologists can charge as high as CAD 60 to 250 per one-hour session.
For those who need such services but would want a cost-effective alternative, there are services offered by recent graduates and associates. They offer the same counselling but are under the supervision of experienced professionals. Another option is to go to therapists who offer a “sliding scale” in private practice. Your income is the basis as to how much you will be paying. With this alternative, you won’t be paying the full amount rather only a reduced fee.
There are also private companies in Toronto providing health insurance that covers child counselling. Talking to the human resources department will help you find out the health plan coverage and the amount you can claim every year. Some companies also provide assistance programs to families in need of counselling. These are confidential and you can freely discuss at the HR department for the type of counsellor and hours of sessions.
Child counselling services are very convenient to avail nowadays. Thanks to technology and developed programs which offer financial assistance, parents and families have more options to choose from. Each child is special and as a parent, you need to do everything to make your child feel safe, happy and well at any point in his/her life.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder for children that may not yet have a perfect cure. Nevertheless, these children can have a semblance of what a normal life can be with patience, love, and willingness to undergo some known therapies. Though some symptoms may not be fully treated, it is still a huge deal to see an affected child smile and socially interact with peers and family.
Essential Therapies for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
There is really no standard therapy for children with autism even though several methods were developed. One reason for that is because the effectiveness of each therapy differs and the specific need. On the plus side, it also means that one of the six tried and tested therapies will work better or is more appropriate than the others for your child.
1. Occupational Therapy: Adding Filters to Sensory Systems
This method of therapy looks into different ways to work within the child’s needs, interests, and abilities in doing everyday tasks and activities.
Children with autism spectrum disorder cannot differentiate information that is irrelevant. As a result, they take in any information that comes their way. Because there is different information for the respective sensory systems, there is a point that receiving all these may result in information overload. The inability to process new information while still processing old information is the reason why these children could go into a breakdown. In a sense, autism took away the mind’s filtering system (discarding irrelevant information).
Occupational therapy for children with autism aims to help organize and assist the autistic child’s nervous system by placing relevant filters for each sensory system.
2. Speech/Language Therapy: Improving Verbal, Non-verbal, and Social Communication
Children affected by autism find it difficult to communicate with those around them. A way to address this issue was the creation of speech/language therapy.
This therapy helps improve the verbal or spoken communication skills of autistic children, including:
Naming different things and people
Express how they are feeling
Speak words and sentences
Speech/Language Therapy also helps children with non-verbal communication skills:
Make and understand hand gestures and signals
Understanding and using picture symbols to communicate
Matching emotions with respective facial expressions
Social communication is an integral part of this therapy and improvements can be seen in social skills and behaviours. For example, the children learn how to make eye contact and find their preferred distance to stand in front of another person.
3. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA): Helping Improve Through Positive Reinforcement
Applied behaviour analysis therapy helps develop and improve personal skills by encouraging positive behaviours and also discouraging negative behaviours. It is generally deemed to be one of the most accepted therapies for young children with autism.
This therapy can be broken into different types depending on the child’s age and other factors such as the area of challenge.
Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI). This type has been recommended for very young children, usually those under 5 years old. The intensive structured approach used in this method involves creating a curriculum specific to one child with the goal of promoting positive behaviour while reducing negative behaviour.
Discrete Trial Training. Children are taught skills by implementing a series of trials until a desired behaviour or response has been achieved. All lessons are taught in their simplest and most basic form while implementing a positive reinforcement scheme to reward a child for achieving a positive response. All negative responses are ignored.
Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT). Each child is given a chance to take the lead when doing a learning activity. This is aimed at making the child become motivated in learning and being aware of his/her behaviour.
4. Social Skills Class: Teaching Children How to Interact with Other People
This is aimed at improving the interaction skills of autistic children. It can be done in a one-on-one setting or as a group wherein the children are taught how to form bonds with other people. An effective teaching method implemented here is through role-playing activities. With the correct guidance, a child will be able to improve conversation skills, develop an attitude of good sportsmanship, and will also learn how to handle negativity coming their way like how to react and handle getting teased by others.
5. Therapeutic Horseback Riding: Riding a Horse to Improve Social and Speaking Skills
This is a form of physical therapy wherein children are not only riding a horse but are also taught on taking care of a horse. Besides interacting with horses, the children are also taught to interact with the people helping the children handle the horses.
Therapeutic Horseback Riding therapy helps children improve focus and behaviour. In doing so, they can also have a fun activity.
6. Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS): Improving Communication Through the Use of Visual Symbols
This is another therapy which can be used for children with autism spectrum disorder who cannot speak or have difficulty with verbal communication.
PECS helps autistic children develop social skills and build relationships. With the use of pictures, the children learn how to indicate what they need or want. In turn, it helps reduce their frustration at not being about to share what they are thinking about. This therapy teaches them to use multiple cards to be able to form sentences and express what is in their mind.
Children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) Can Improve
As parents, having an autistic child cannot be easy. Once diagnosed, early intervention can reduce frustration and help your child cope. The symptoms of autism may differ from one child to another. For that reason, there is no such thing as the best therapy. Instead, you have six types of therapies that can help your child, depending on the needs.
Speech therapy, occupational therapy, behavioural therapy, enhancing communication and social skills, or improving motor skills – you have a choice. More importantly, your child has a chance to have a better quality of life.
The formative years of a child’s life lie between the ages of 0 to 8. This is when they are learning so fast in terms of the social, emotional, cognitive and physical aspects of their lives. To be more specific, the very first 5 years are most crucial. Parents do everything they can to provide the best love and care from birth onwards. Any external factor induced during these years greatly impacts the health and overall well-being of a child when he matures into a mature adult.
As children are born, everything they feel, hear and see all play into how they are able to interact with the outside world. Children are like a sponge, absorbing everything and learning. That is why having a positive environment is important and helps them see the world from a positive perspective. In turn, it enhances their interaction with other people.
Child Development Milestones Are Important
From birth, there are significant milestones that each child achieves and as every child is unique, there is no need to compare one child from the other. Developmental milestones are set to identify if each child is developing at a normal pace or not. This mainly involves physical, cognitive development and learning. Nurturing children at these very important years of their lives will help them grow into healthy and sound adolescents in the future.
If a child is neglected or a parent fails to meet all the needs of a child, mental problems are bound to occur when a child matures. Deep-rooted issues will stay within a child as he further grows through time. Oftentimes, these children are more likely to develop depression or have behavioural issues when they get old. A child lacking emotional attention during the formative years will most probably have low-esteem or develop insecurities. Lacking a good support system at home during the early years will make it difficult for a child to live through his/her teenage life.
Child Development Therapy for Children with Special Needs
To be able to keep track of a child’s developmental stages, there is a special therapy that focuses on how a child is developing from birth to 5 years of age. All of the areas are checked by the therapists and not just one aspect. This usually involves self-help skills, cognitive abilities, socio-economic, behaviour and communication skills.
Here are the reasons why parents need to consult for therapy:
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
ADHD/ ADD and other learning disabilities
Cognitive development delay
Impairment in the hearing and visual senses
Developmental therapists are highly trained to assess the global development of the child and then identify key areas of concern. Since development therapy focuses on young children, play activities are provided. These may be tummy time, texture testing, water play and facial recognition games for the babies. Toddler play activities may range from stacking, measuring or sorting games. All of these help children develop and reach their expected milestones which are age-appropriate.
Brain development during the formative years is very important, and that’s why parents who have children with mental conditions need help. Seeking the help of an experienced child development therapist is the best way to understand the problem and determining the appropriate treatment. These therapists provide initial consultations to better understand the background of a particular child. After the consultation, a therapist creates a plan to follow for the parents and caregivers so as everybody is on the same boat. Interventions and interactions are then provided so that the child will be able to learn and gain confidence in reaching his developmental milestones.
In Toronto, Ontario, the cost of a development therapist averages CAD 31 per one-hour session. Every child has different needs so the therapist and parents need to work together to create a schedule on a weekly basis. A child may also need more activities than others with the therapist to further enhance the development stages. Some families spend an average of CAD 1200-2000 in child development therapy classes so as to bridge the gaps. The government offers programs in these areas but because of the long waiting list, most parents opt to avail the services of private groups which are more expensive.
Being Resourceful Amidst Crisis
At this time of the pandemic, parents are scrambling on how to keep up with the expenses of sending their child to the best therapist in town. But it is best to be resourceful and take advantage of the programs provided by the OHIP or the Ontario Autism Program. These are cost-effective and the therapists are highly trained to help out any child facing delays or difficulties in development. There are kind-hearted employers who set aside a budget for families who may need child development therapy and talking it out with the human resource department is just a breeze.
Parents have the front seats on watching how a tiny baby unfolds and grows into a feisty toddler. Every bit of love, nurture and attention are important in the development of a child. Together with therapists and trained caregivers, the child is formed and honed to be a better individual. Making them make sense of the world around them is something that takes time and effort.
Child development therapy is just one of the interventions that deal with children facing issues in the early stages of their lives. But it creates a huge impact as to what they become in the future. Toronto offers several groups and organizations that offer child development therapy services. It is up to you to decide which therapist to take in and trust. All therapists have a solid education and foundation about child development. That’s why it is best to trust their invaluable services. As parents, supporting and addressing the needs of the child during therapy is very crucial to his growth and development.