How is Autism Spectrum Disorder Treated?
The symptoms of autism vary from person to person, and so do the methods of treatment. There are several ways to treat autism, and the course of treatment should be personalized to each person based on their symptoms and reactions to treatment. Although autism cannot be cured, in many cases the symptoms can be managed through behavioral therapy, medication, or both. This article lists and describes a few of the types of treatments currently available for Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)
Applied behavioral Analysis is generally considered “the gold standard” for autism treatment. ABA is used to eliminate undesirable or unacceptable behaviors and encourage correct or desirable behaviors. Historically ABA involved the use of punishments and rewards; however, more recently punishments are usually replaced with the absence of rewards. The particular behaviors that are being encouraged or discouraged depend on prior observation of the subject of therapy. Many children respond well to ABA and it can help them navigate school and social settings.
Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)
Early Start Denver Model was designed to help treat children between ages one and four years old diagnosed with autism. It is related to Applied Behavioral Analysis and follows a similar model, with adjustments accounting for the very young age of the children receiving treatment. The model focuses on play in interaction with therapists and help form social bonds and improve cognitive development and language skills. It is important that parents are involved in this form of therapy and continue the lessons at home to consistently model desired behavior for young children.
Many children benefit from speech therapy even if they are not diagnosed with autism. For autistic children whose speech is particularly impacted (a common symptom of autism), speech therapy can be helpful in improving their communication skills, voice modulation, understanding of facial expressions and body language, and more. Speech therapy not only helps improve verbal language skills but the understanding of nonverbal communication as well. Some autistic children prefer or better understand alternative forms of communication, and can benefit from what is known as Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC). This can include sign language, communication through iPads or other technology, speech output devices, and using pictures to communicate
Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)
Relationship Development intervention focuses on treating some of the core symptoms of autism, specifically building relationships and developing emotional and social skills. The six objectives of RDI include emotional referencing, social coordination, declarative language, flexible thinking, relational information processing, and foresight and hindsight. RDI uses step-by-step methods to teach these skills and to motivate children to learn them. Children often start by working on techniques one-on-one with a therapist and/or parents, then graduate to working with another child with similar skills, and eventually joining a group.
These are just a few of the many treatments for autism, without even touching on the medications available for a variety of symptoms. The current world has a much stronger understanding of autism than even the recent past, and with the right treatment program or combination of treatments, many autistic children go on to be successful in their educations, careers, and social lives.