Effective Autism Spectrum Therapies for Your Children
Autism spectrum therapies are very much essential for the development of the children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) after they are diagnosed. The aim of providing autism spectrum therapies is to allow the autistic children a better life leading to their self-dependent as far as possible. Once a child is diagnosed with autism, the first thing the parents need to know what are the therapies are to be started immediately for the rapid development their child.
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability and it cannot be cured by any medicine. However, researchers show that early intervention through therapies can greatly improve the behavior of the children. So, till now, the therapies are the only solution for the development of your autistic children. But there is no ‘one-size fits all’ solution regarding therapies for the development of all autistic children. Each autistic child is a unique individual having unique abilities and needs. So the therapies need to be tailored to fit each autistic child.
“Two kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can behave very differently.”
– Dr. Wilms Floet.
There are different types of therapies like Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Speech-Language Therapy, Physical Therapy (Physiotherapy) and so on that are required for the autistic children. All types of therapies may not be required for each and every autistic child. But sometimes, an autistic child may need a combination of different types of the therapies. As per a statistics, in the USA, over 50% of the children with autism receive ABA therapy, over 75% receive occupational therapy and over 90% receive speech therapy.
As parents of children with autism, we must get an assessment about what are the autism spectrum therapies required for our children. The effectiveness of the autism spectrum therapies is dependent upon the following factors:
Location (whether home, school or therapy center), where the therapies are conducted.
Participation of the parents, teachers, caregivers, and siblings in the therapies.
Duration and intensity of the therapies (for example session/hour in a week).
Qualification, skill, experience, and style of the therapist.
In this article, I would like to discuss different types of effective autism spectrum therapies required for the development of the autistic children. The aim of my writing is to help the parents of the autistic children to gather knowledge about autism spectrum therapies to improve the skills of their children in the areas of weakness in the way of making them self-dependent.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy
ABA therapy is one of the significant approaches of autism spectrum therapies for the development of the children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) of any level. It was first developed by Dr. Olee Ivar Lovaas in the year 1960, basing on the principle of learning. Many studies have shown that ABA therapies are the proven techniques to reduce the challenging or inappropriate behavior and teach appropriate language skills, self-help skills, behavior and social skills to the children with ASD. It works very effectively if therapy is started before 5 years age of the child.
Behavioral therapies involve carefully observing of the present behaviors and then changing a specific behavior. The jobs of the therapists are to employ various techniques to increase positive behaviors and decrease negative behaviors. As a part of the therapy program, they also collect data about children’s success and failures and their latest conditions to monitor their development.
During applying the ABA therapies, the skills are broken down into small segments for easy learning of your autistic children. Each small segment is taught separately providing cues and rewards. Different motivational reinforcements/rewards are given to the child to expedite their learning. The reinforcements/rewards can be any attractive toy, or just a smile or a hug from the therapist.
Occupational therapy is an important therapy in the autism spectrum therapies that support the autistic children to acquire the necessary skills of performing the different activities of day to day life to the best of their abilities. It is also called sensory integration therapy. It addresses their learning and attention issues related to physical and mental health to achieve their full potential.
When a child is diagnosed with autism, an early intervention is essential. The first thing the parents need to consult with the occupational therapist to do an in-depth assessment to find out the disabilities to provide the necessary occupational therapy. The therapist will assess the conditions of your child and suggest what types of therapies are required. While doing an assessment, the therapists need to take into account the physical, social, emotional, sensory and cognitive abilities and needs of the autistic child. It needs a thorough study about the child, his living environment and his drawbacks in the different activities of his/her day to day life.
Autistic children are generally found lacking in gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and cognitive skills. Occupational therapists deal with those aspects of the autistic children to bring significant development:
Gross Motor Skills.
-Gross Motor skills are the movement and the coordination of the different parts of the body like hands, legs and other major body parts which are involved in walking, standing, crawling, swimming & running, jumping, throwing. These are the major skills of the human being essential for performing day to day activities.
-The autistic children who all are lacking in these gross motor skills need to provide occupational therapy to improve upon their above-mentioned skills.
-For example, my autistic children lack in running. However, we have taught him how to swim as a part of the occupational therapy.
Fine Motor Skills.
-Fine motor skills involve smaller body parts like hands, wrists, fingers, feet, toes etc in the different day to day activities. The activities of fine motor skills include writing, feeding oneself, zippering, buttoning and picking something by the fingers. The autistic children need to apply the occupational therapy to improve upon their fine motor skills involving.
-The autistic children who have the problem with their fine motor skills, need to apply the occupational therapy to bring significant development.
-My autism angel Ferdous Mahi has learned many day to day activities like writing, feeding oneself, zippering, and picking something by the fingers with our active initiative. But he cannot perform buttoning (especially fixing button of the hand of a full-sleeve shirt) and tie his shoelaces. We have been trying to teach him these two fine motor skills since long but not yet successful.
–Cognitive skills are the abilities of the brain to perform different mental activities like thinking, understanding, learning, remembering, memorizing, paying attention, and problem-solving techniques. An occupational therapist first evaluates the deficit of the cognitive skills of an autistic child and then provides treatment for improvement of those skills.
-My autistic son Ferdous Mahi is very much lacking in some of these cognitive skills. He has got the ability of understanding, learning, remembering and memorizing but he is severely lacking in thinking, paying attention and problem-solving techniques.
Occupational therapy also helps the children to take care of themselves and participating in the school programs and the different kinds of plays. Occupational therapy can help the autistic children to bring magical development of their capabilities in the following areas:
Day to day activities like brushing teeth, combing hair, dressing, binding shoelaces, bathing, self-feeding, grooming, toileting, sleeping, and following family routines to become self-dependent
Learning lessons of the school like handwriting, drawing, cutting, typing, organization, attention/self-regulation.
Participating in art, games and social activities like coloring, building games, puzzle, exploring new things and social interaction.
Occupational therapy can be conducted at home, school, community, and therapy center by making a team with the parents, siblings, caregivers, teachers, and the therapists. They all need to make a plan for the occupational therapy and execute the plan effectively.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that can be used for the people having problems of mental health, especially for the autistic children. The type of autism spectrum therapy was invented by a psychiatrist, Aaron T. Beck, in the 1960s. CBT is an effective treatment approach for a range of mental and emotional health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). CBT can be beneficial for anyone who needs support to challenge unhelpful thoughts that are preventing them from reaching their goals or living the life they want to live.
Cognitive behavior therapy is one of the most widely-used therapy among the autism spectrum therapies for the autistic children who suffer from anxiety disorder. Cognitive therapy helps the autistic children to develop alternative ways of thinking, feeling and behaving which aims to reduce their psychological distress.This is a usually a short-term treatment of autistic children that focus on teaching them a certain specific skill.
Speech therapy is another kind of autism spectrum therapies which help the autistic children to communicate functionally and spontaneously with others using language. Generally, the autistic children are found to have difficulties in communication. There are different types of autistic children in relation to their speech impairment. These are verbal and non-verbal autistic children. There are some autistic children who have problems in conversation, memorization, understanding the meaning of words, and echolalia, There are some children who can only utter the words but cannot frame sentences. My autistic son Ferdous Mahi is like that.
A speech therapist is a key member of the autism intervention team. His role comes first as the symptom of speech problem may be identified earlier than the at the other symptoms of autism. Generally, a child starts talking by the age of 18 months. On the other hand, the symptoms of autism are evident by the age of 3 years. The speech therapist needs to evaluate the autistic child to determine his/her needs of communication and social skill. The nature and degree of the speech therapy will vary depending on the severity of the problem in the child. The therapy will help the children to improve their communication and social skills, express their wants and needs, develop the relationship with their peers.
Presently, there is an acute shortage of efficient speech-language therapist in Bangladesh. The parents should find out a very good therapist for quality evaluation and effective application of the speech-language therapy for their children.
Physical therapy is another type of autism spectrum therapies that is also known as physiotherapy. Children with autism spectrum disorders might have the problem of gross motor coordination which can stop their movements like walking, running, jumping, and kicking. These challenges can be occurred due to poor muscle tone, balance, and coordination. Researchers have found that some of the autistic children have weak trunk and core muscles which is responsible for their poor balance and coordination. Toe walking, ankle stiffness, and motor apraxia are the other challenges for the autistic children. Physical therapy can help to overcome these challenges and restore mobility. Imparting the physical therapy regularly can show tremendous improvement in an autistic child.
Autism spectrum therapies are essential for the development of the autistic children. Though autism is not a curable disability, effective autism therapies can bring a significant improvement in the life of the autistic children. Once a child is diagnosed with autism, he should be assessed for effective autism spectrum therapies.
There are different types of autism spectrum therapies needed for the autistic children. But which therapies will be required for a particular individual depends upon problems of the children and level of the autism. The therapist will assess the condition of the child and determine the types of autism spectrum therapies and also the number of sessions per week.
The therapies can be home-based or the school-based. A team can be formed by the therapist along with the parents, teachers, caregivers, and the sibling for imparting the autism spectrum therapies properly. If we can apply the proper autism spectrum therapies in a proper manner, certainly we can see a great improvement in the autistic children.
Each of the therapy discussed above is a very special type of job. The therapist must have professionalism on his field to evaluate and impart proper therapy to the autistic child. The parents are to ensure recruitment of professional therapist and apply the proper type of autism spectrum therapies for their children.
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