INTERVENTION + THERAPY
Every child or adult with autism has a unique set of challenges and strengths. There is no one size fits all approach. Many people with ASD have other conditions such as sleep disturbance, seizures, gastrointestinal (GI) distress, and oral health issues. If we address these conditions, we can improve attention, learning, and behavior. Many people also benefit from therapies for communication, social skills, or motor challenges, or to learn other skills like feeding or self-care. Here are just some of the ways that professionals work to help this population:
APPLIED BEHAVIORAL ANALYSIS therapy applies our understanding of how behavior works to real situations. The goal is to increase behaviors that are helpful and decrease behaviors that are harmful or affect learning. Positive reinforcement is one of the main strategies used in ABA. When a behavior is followed by something that is valued (a reward), a person is more likely to repeat that behavior. Through repetition, a person will start to practice that behavior. We will talk about this more when we introduce REWARD PROCESSING. ABA is considered an evidence-based best practice treatment by the US Surgeon General and by the American Psychological Association. Two ABA teaching styles are Discrete Trial Training (DTT) and Pivotal Response Training (PRT). DTT uses step-by-step instructions to teach a desired behavior or response. Lessons are broken down into their simplest parts, and desired answers and behaviors are rewarded. Undesired answers and behaviors are ignored. PRT takes place in a natural setting rather than clinic setting. The goal of PRT is to improve a few “pivotal skills” that will help the person learn many other skills. One example of a pivotal skill is to initiate communication with others.
Speech-language therapy addresses challenges with language and communication. It can help people with autism improve their verbal, nonverbal, and social communication. The overall goal is to help the person communicate in more useful and functional ways. Examples of the skills this therapy can work on include:
• Strengthening the muscles in the mouth,
• Responding to questions jaw and neck
• Matching a picture with its
• Making clearer speech sounds meaning
• Matching emotions with the correct facial
• Using a speech app on an iPad expression to produce the correct word
• Understanding body language
• Modulating tone of voice
TEACCH or TREATMENT AND EDUCATION AND RELATED COMMUNICATION HANDICAPPED CHILDREN is based on the idea that people with autism need consistency, physical instruction, and visual learning. Written or drawn and placed in clear sight. Boundaries can be set around learning stations.
FLOOR TIME encourages parents and therapists to follow the interests of the individual to expand opportunities for communication.
RELATIONSHIP DEVELOPMENT INTERVENTION (RDI) model involves activities that increase motivation, interest, and abilities to participate in shared social interactions.
SOCIAL SKILLS GROUPS provide opportunities for people with ASD to practice social skills in a structured environment.
OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY (OT) helps people work on cognitive, physical, social, and motor skills. The goal is to improve everyday skills which allow people to become more independent and participate in a wide range of activities. OT programs often focus on play skills, learning strategies, and self-care. OT strategies can also help to manage sensory issues. An OT will evaluate a patient’s current level of ability through interaction and play. They can help with things like independent dressing, eating, grooming, using the bathroom, and fine motor skills.
SENSORY INTEGRATION THERAPY is used to help improve responses to sensory input that may be restrictive or overwhelming.
PHYSICAL THERAPY can help improve physical skills, such as fine movements of the fingers or larger movements of the trunk and body. Occupational therapists and dentists can work together to plan modifications to the dental environment or adapt dental protocols to reduce barriers. Children with ASD experience challenges with oral care both at home and at the dentist. One study reported that as few as 50% of children with ASD brushed their teeth the recommended twice per day, and up to 61% of parents with children with ASD report that toothbrushing is difficult. In the dental office, there may be challenges with the taste or smell of prophylaxis paste or fluoride, the dentist touching their face, bright lights shining in the child’s eyes, the high-pitched sound of dental equipment, and unusual smells. We will learn more about how UPD approaches these issues, and how we work with this population soon! There are no MEDICATIONS that treat the core symptoms of ASD, but it can help with co-occurring symptoms. For example, medication might help manage high energy levels, inability to focus, or self-harming behavior. Medication can also help manage co-occurring psychological conditions and physical issues.
COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY (CBT) is a psychological approach that focuses on learning the connections between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
COMPLEMENTARY + ALTERNATIVE Resources TREATMENTS are often used to supplement more traditional approaches. They might include special diets, herbal supplements, chiropractic care, animal therapy, arts therapy, mindfulness, or relaxation therapies.