Some of the most effective treatment options for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are applied behavior analysis (ABA), occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy. These treatment options work to minimize the deficits associated with ASD and help children learn and acquire skills to become as independent as possible. These are just a few of the many therapies that can provide services for individuals with an autism diagnosis.
There are so many different treatment options out there to help children with autism it is hard to keep track of what they all are and what they do. Science has shown that the earlier the intervention the better the growth and development of skills for children diagnosed with autism.* I have seen children who obtain early intervention move into “typical” classrooms and require minimal to no support. I have seen children learn to dress and feed themselves after treatment. I have seen kids with autism learn to communicate through pictures, voice output systems, sign language, and speech after early intervention. Every child is different and learns in their own way in their own time, but the benefits of early intervention and therapeutic services can drastically change the outcome and development for a child with an autism diagnosis.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA): ABA uses knowledge on how behavior works to increase positive behaviors (such as behaviors that are helpful) and decrease negative ones (such as behaviors that are harmful or affect learning). Applied behavior analysis also helps to teach new skills and apply those new skills to the child’s environment. To learn more about ABA therapy check out a previous blog post here.
Occupational Therapy (OT): Occupational therapist work to improve the quality of life and develop skills and ability to participate it everyday activities. They also work on sensory integration issues commonly associated with an ASD diagnosis. You will see occupational therapists working on the development of fine motor skills to dress, use utensils, and use scissor and writing tools as well. (For more information on OT check out www.autismspeaks.org).
Physical Therapy (PT): Physical therapy help with gross motor abilities and sensory integration abilities for the child to feel and be aware of where their body is in space. Physical therapy is like OT in that they work to improve an individual’s ability to participate in everyday activities. You will typically see a physical therapist working to improve and teach skills such as walking, balance, coordination, and sitting.
Speech Therapy (SLP): Speech therapists, also known as speech language pathologists, work to increase communication skills and social skills. Speech therapists work with both verbal and nonverbal individuals to improve communication skills to better express needs and wants. They also work on understanding verbal and non-verbal cues (facial expression, hand gestures, etc.) to improve social skills. (For more information on SLP’s check out www.autismspeaks.org)
As we know autism comes in all different shapes and forms and no two kids are alike. With that being said, it is important to know that not all children with an autism diagnosis need all of the therapies listed above. Also, pairing therapies and different options not just choosing one over the other may be recommended. If you need help understanding what therapeutic options may be best for you child, reach out to your child’s doctor and they will be able to lead you in the right direction of care.