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.
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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.
Related article: Here are 7 Simple Exercises for Visual Perception Problems
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.