If My Child Is Diagnosed With Autism What Treatments Are There?
Linda Wechter-Ashkin PhD NCSP BC-TMHC ADHD CCSP
Before deciding on a treatment for your child it will be really important to speak with the person who diagnosis them about what their individual needs are and what the severity is. Most children with Autism will benefit from ABA therapy. Honestly most children in general would benefit from ABA therapy but it is not offered. The idea is to target desired behaviors and reinforce them and eliminate unwanted behaviors. With that being the focus no matter what your child’s needs ABA therapy are is a useful service. That means if they are having trouble with social skills such as physical boundaries, proper greetings, or appropriate displays of affection, ABA therapy can target those behaviors. If your child has difficulty expressing themselves appropriately, or withdraws from social situations, or consistently interrupts, ABA therapy can target those behaviors. If they get physical because they are frustrated with their inability to express themselves ABA therapy can be used to target that behavior.
Many children with autism have deficits in adaptive living skills that can be targeted by occupational therapy that focuses on the skills needed to perform age-appropriate tasks like fine motor skills needed to eat and write, dressing, and grooming. Others benefit from physical therapy to help with gross motor skills, balance, and coordination. Others benefit from speech and language therapy to help them with self-expression and communication skills.
Many children benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy to help them to better control their thoughts and behaviors especially when anxiety, emotional dysregulation, or impulsivity are present. Parents often benefit from parenting counseling to help them to effectively address their child’s behaviors. Other families benefit from family counseling especially when the needs of the autistic child are significant. Sometimes parents feel the symptoms are significant enough that they look towards pharmaceutical treatments to mitigate symptoms so that the child can function more efficiently with less distress.
The good news is there is a lot to do and you are not alone. Do your research. Talk to other parents, talk to the professionals that are on your care team, and if you have a child that you think has autism but you haven’t gotten a diagnosis yet, let us help you.
List Of Treatment Approaches
Behavioral Approaches- focus on changing behaviors by better understanding why they happen. The most common is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA therapy can be done in a center or at your home and the purpose is to encourage desired behaviors and discourage undesired behaviors.
Developmental Approaches focus on improving specific developmental skills, such as speech and language skills or physical skills, or a broader range of interconnected developmental abilities. They include speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and sensory integration therapy.
Psychological Approaches- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy(CBT) can be used to help individuals change how they react to situations. Family and parenting counseling can also be useful to help families to adjust to the needs of the ASD individual. Other treatments might include animal therapy, arts therapy, mindfulness, or relaxation therapies.
Pharmacological Approaches- There are no specific medications to treat ASD but medication can be used to help manage high energy levels, inability to focus, or self-harming behavior, such as head banging or hand biting. Medication can also help manage co-occurring psychological conditions, such as anxiety or depression, in addition to medical conditions such as seizures, sleep problems, or stomach or other gastrointestinal problems. Special diets, herbal supplements, and chiropractic care may also be suggested.
Educational Approaches-focus on providing teachers with ways to adjust the classroom structure and improve academic and other outcomes. This is where the accommodations and modifications come in. This can include social relational skill training to increase motivation, interest, and abilities to participate in shared social interactions.