“What is autism?” Can different therapies truly help my child with autism?” “Can medicines cure the autistic features of my child?”
If you are a parent concerned about the future of your child diagnosed with autism or autism spectrum disorder, or if you are worried about your child’s autism treatment and its effectiveness, then this blog is for you!
Raising a child is a complex and multifaceted process, and this complexity multiplies when the child has special needs. In the minds of parents raising their special kids, various doubts and queries pop up from time to time. The World Health Organization estimates that 1 in 100 children worldwide have autism. Since the prevalence of autism is high globally, doubts and confusions related to this are also more common. Addressing such concerns from a reliable and authentic source is necessary for providing better care to our children.
What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Autism is a neurological and developmental disorder characterised by a broad range of symptoms that includes,
- Challenges with social skills
- Repetitive behaviours
- Difficulties in speech and non-verbal communication
Autism is often referred to as a “spectrum” disorder since there are wide variations in symptoms experienced by different people. The severity of these symptoms may vary from individual to individual. Autism is also called a developmental disorder, as the symptoms generally appear in the initial two years of life.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), a guide to diagnosing mental health disorders developed by American Psychiatric Association, people with Autism Spectrum Disorder often have:
- Challenges in academic performance and professional interaction
- Trouble communicating and interacting with other people around them
- Repetitive behaviours and restricted interests
- Often find it difficult to adjust to changes in their routine
What is Autism Treatment?
Currently, there is no treatment that can offer complete management for ASD symptoms.
Though there is no single standardised treatment method, there are multiple ways to help people with autism manage their day-to-day lives productively by reducing symptoms and maximising their strengths.
Behaviour therapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, and medications are often found to be helpful in effectively managing autistic symptoms. These interventions may differ from person to person according to their needs.
For example, a person with autistic features may also show signs of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). The interventions that are effective for a person with only autistic symptoms may be futile for someone with ADHD and autism. This clearly indicates the need for an individualised treatment that can address the unique needs of each individual with autism.
What are the Different Treatments for Autism?
- Behaviour Therapy or Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA)
Behaviour therapy often tries to reinforce the desired behaviour in the child and reduce the occurrence of unwanted behaviours. Positive behaviours and new skills are taught to the child using reinforcements or rewards. Most often, children are given simple tasks to promote the desired behaviour, and they are rewarded as they complete the tasks successfully. Behaviour Therapy also helps in cognitive enhancement. It improves play and social skills and helps reduce behaviours like inattention, aggression and screaming.
- Occupational Therapy
An occupational therapist can help your child be independent in daily activities. Occupational therapy primarily focuses on everyday activities like feeding, toileting, dressing, etc. It can also include activities related to school (holding a pen, writing, etc.), daily living (brushing, toileting, etc.) and social relationships (play, turn-taking, etc.). Play activities help improve adaptive behaviours and social interactions in the child. An occupational therapist may use puzzles, building blocks, and obstacle crossing to enhance a child’s eye-hand coordination and bilateral coordination.
An occupational therapist can also help your child improve their sensory integration through Sensory Integration Therapy. Sensory integration therapy helps children learn to use all their senses together – that is, touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing. After an in-depth evaluation, the occupational therapist designs and implements a programme that includes exercises that prompt the child’s sensory reactions, particularly those related to balance and movement. This could involve activities like climbing, bouncing, or swinging.
- Speech and Language Therapy
People with autism often find difficulty in both verbal and non-verbal communication. They have trouble maintaining eye contact and comprehending gestures. Many children present with involuntary repetition of words of others (known as echolalia). A speech therapist can help these children improve their overall communication skills by developing and enhancing their receptive and expressive language skills.
The administration of antipsychotic drugs helps to reduce aggressive and self-injurious behaviours in autistic children. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) are used to treat compulsive behaviours, depression, and anxiety, which are often comorbid with autism. You can consult a Psychiatrist, Paediatric Neurologist or Developmental Paediatrician for this purpose.
- Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) Therapy
It is a family-based approach that helps autistic children develop social skills, understand various perspectives, and form meaningful relationships. The primary objective of this therapy is to improve a child’s ability to think flexibly and handle social situations.
Why is Therapy Important?
Some people believe that ASD is a lifelong disabling condition. However, many researchers in the field have documented case examples of kids with ASD who have eliminated their symptoms to the point where the individuals fit within the typical range (Koegel & LaZebnik, 2004; Lovaas, 1987), and nearly half could eventually function without the need for special support. This result is unlikely, though, without early action. The objective of most parents and specialists is to reduce symptoms that can adversely influence the child’s ability to participate in daily activities and find work. Improved long-term outcomes are more likely with early intervention. Hence, giving your child appropriate therapy is critical to help them deal with their concerns.
What is the Right Time to Start Autism Treatment?
The timeline for autism treatment
may vary from child to child. However, researchers suggest that early intervention will be more beneficial, and treatment can begin as early as 18 months.
What to Consider Before Choosing Therapy for Your Child?
- Make sure that qualified and skilled professionals perform the assessment and therapies.
- Make a note of your child’s strengths and weaknesses to discuss with the evaluating therapist.
- Ensure the therapy centre’s genuineness, authenticity, and expertise
- Make yourself available and be present with your child during assessment and therapy sessions.
- Remember to consider transportation and affordability
- Discuss your child’s needs and be an active participant in your child’s goal-setting and therapy programs.
Which Treatment is Suitable for Your Child?
You can consult a clinical psychologist, a psychiatrist, a paediatric neurologist, or a developmental paediatrician to get the assessment of your child done to decide which treatment will be effective. The professionals will be able to analyse your child’s needs and help you choose appropriate therapies. Medications, if necessary, can be taken after consulting a developmental paediatrician or a psychiatrist.
Which Therapy is Suitable for Adults?
Adults with autism may benefit from various therapy modalities, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy. An individual or a group setting can help in therapy or general counselling by a psychologist. Medications may also be taken in case of necessity after consulting a qualified psychiatrist.
How Long is Therapy Needed for Your Child?
The duration of therapy will vary depending on the diagnosis as well as the needs of your child. The entire course of treatment often lasts one to three years. Therapy goals and programs are recommended depending on your child’s age and the severity of the condition.
Is it Possible to Start Autism Treatment at Home?
It is recommended to start treatment after a detailed assessment by a clinical psychologist, a psychiatrist, a paediatric neurologist or a developmental paediatrician. The treatment modalities are determined based on the diagnosis. Home programs may be planned after consulting your child’s therapist. Home therapies can help as your home is a much more comfortable space for your kid to learn and develop new skills.
Autism is a condition for which a permanent or complete cure is not available yet. But the various symptoms of ASD can be managed through proper therapies and medications. Consult your child’s doctor or healthcare provider to learn more about autism and to chalk out your child’s most effective support plan. Always keep your child motivated and encouraged, and keep them engaged in activities they like. You may also write to us with questions or concerns regarding autism in the space provided below.
We hope this content has helped you get an overview of autism treatment. Feel free to post your feedback in the comments below and let our team know your thoughts.