F. Early intervention and Treatment for Autism
Early identification and intervention are proven to be most effective in providing the best results for most conditions including Autism Spectrum Disorder. Our brains have an incredible ability called “Neuroplasticity” because of which it is able to create and reorganize neural connections in the process of learning. In early childhood, the brain is more neoplastic. Hence, treatment given as early as possible can result in the most favorable outcomes. The sooner you start intervention, the better the progress will be.
Based on the results of the assessment you may be recommended to attend various types of therapy. Here is a short description of each of them:
1. Behavioral therapy: Children with autism often have restricted interests, repetitive patterns of behavior, poor social communication skills, poor emotional skills etc. A clinical child psychologist carries out behavior therapy to help your child regulate their behavior. They also work on improving your child’s social skills, emotional skills, and cognitive skills. ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) are some well known treatment approaches.
2. Speech and Language therapy: Most children with autism face frustration due to inability to communicate. This frustration is often expressed with problematic behavior. Speech therapists use play-based activities to help your child understand language and provide a mode of communication. They teach the child to use language in different social situations, carry conversations, peer interaction etc.
The mode of communication could be verbal or nonverbal (using picture boards, or assistive devices like the Avaz app, Jello AAC communicator) depending on the needs of the child.
3. Occupational therapy: Occupational therapists help your child develop activities of daily living (like eating, brushing, toilet training, wearing clothes, etc), Gross motor skills (walking, running, riding a bicycle, etc) , Fine motor skills (holding a pencil, cutting with scissors,etc) etc. They carry out physical activities that work on increasing body awareness, posture, coordination, attention and perceptual skills.
4. Sensory integration therapy: Children with Autism may also have difficulty processing and integrating sensory input. For example, some music may be too loud, some lights may be too bright for your child even if it is bearable/ “normal” for you. These sensory issues may interfere with activities of daily living. Sensory integration therapy aims at helping the child cope with the difficulties by reducing fear and defensiveness, developing positive responses to sensory inputs, self- regulation, and improving functional abilities.
5. Special education: Whether your child attends a special school or is integrated to regular school, it is important to make sure that the teacher has the training and experience to work with autistic children. A special educator would be able to form an Individualised Educational Plan (IEP) for the child, which will focus on functional academics. The curriculum is modified based on the child’s abilities. Special education aims at enabling the child to organise their daily academic activities in a structured manner with a schedule.
All the above-mentioned therapy services may not be recommended to every child with ASD because each child is different and the presenting symptoms and needs vary from child to child. Please enroll your child in such therapies only if suggested by a practising professional.
What can parents do for an autistic child?
You can certainly help your child in handling their condition. It is advised to create an accepting environment for the child and try not to guilt or shame their condition. As a parent, it is necessary to attend family education services in order to gain insight into the condition and create an empathetic outlook into the child’s life. Encouraging the child to be independent with small tasks can help the child and giving them positive feedback can help the child.
Parents can also join Autism support groups and Parent groups. Some groups may provide false and misleading information, please verify them with your child’s therapist/ doctor. Always remember that what works for one child may not work for another.