One in every 68 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Autism spans all ethnic, racial and economic groups, meaning that it can affect any child, anywhere. With a growing rate of diagnosis, researchers are hard at work coming up with ways to help children (and adults) with ASD. What autism treatments are available?
There's no single answer to this question. From speech therapy to behavior modification, you'll find a variety of options. The specific one (or combination of treatments) that you choose depends on your child's needs as an individual, your parenting style and the medical/developmental professional's recommendations. That said, understanding your options is a first step to making a true change in your child's life.
Applied Behavior Analysis
Also known as ABA, applied behavior analysis has been used since the 1960's. While the process as a whole may seem complicated, breaking it down into three basic steps is a helpful way to understand the heart of the treatment. It starts with an antecedent (a verbal or physical stimulus that comes from someone else, internally or the environment). The next step is the child's response (or lack of a response). This is followed by a consequence. The consequence is dependent on the behavior. In most cases a board-certified behavior analyst writes the ABA program and monitors the child's progress. A therapist who specializes in ASD may also work with the child on a daily basis.
Even though speech therapy won't 'treat' autism, it can help the child to better communicate (use words, interact verbally and socialize) with others. Speech language professionals help children with ASD at school, in the home and in therapeutic office settings, according to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association. A speech therapist creates goals for the child's communication based on the individual's needs. These may include understanding and using gestures, starting/stopping conversations and getting along with others (through appropriate use of language). Speech therapists also help autistic children with feeding needs. Children with sensory processing issues may need extra help from a speech therapist, dealing with foods that have different textures or tastes.
This method requires the parent or therapist to get down on the child's level, engage in activities with the child and follow the child's lead. The adult (again, either a parent or a therapist) then gradually moves the child towards more complex interactions. It uses the child's interests and actions as a springboard to make connections and to create challenges.
While these aren't the only autism treatments available, they are well-used, time-tested (and evidenced-based) options to start with. Keep in mind, every child is different. This means that what works for your friend's, neighbor's or cousin's child may not work for yours. With that in mind, it's key to consult with a qualified professional (who spends time getting to know your child and your family) before making any treatment decisions.
Contact a center like Functionabilities Pediatric Therapy for more information.