Despite not having treatment for autism spectrum disorder, several intervention methods have been studied and developed to help young children. These interventions may reduce symptoms, improve cognitive ability and daily living skills. Thus, allowing the child to function and participate as a member of the community. Since the disorder is a spectrum disorder, individuals tend to have different strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, treatment plans are multidisciplinary, may involve parent-mediated interventions, and target the child’s individual needs.
There are various types of intervention approaches behavioral, communication approaches, dietary approaches, and complementary and alternative medicine. The following article will outline the behavioral and communication methods or intervention strategies for autism spectrum disorder.
Behavior and Communication Approaches
Behavioral intervention strategies have focused on social communication skills development, especially at a young age when the child would typically be developing these skills. Moreover, behavioral intervention strategies aim at reducing children’s restricted interests and repetitive and challenging behavior. For some children, occupational and speech therapy might be helpful. Additionally, social skills training and medication in older children might be helpful. It is also important to emphasize that the best course of treatment or intervention varies according to age, strengths, challenges, and differences.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Research Council reports, behavior and communication approaches that help children with autism spectrum disorder are ones that provide the following: structure, direction, and organization for the child as well as family participation.
Applied Behavioral Analysis
Applied behavioral analysis is an approach that works by breaking down skills such as communication and cognitive skills into smaller tasks. The tasks are then taught in a highly structured way. Over time, these tasks merge into more complex skills that help in development.
Every task completed is rewarded and reinforced positively. Moreover, inappropriate behavior is discouraged. This intervention can be applied at home and is overseen by a consultant and a team of therapists. It consists of 40 hours a week of intensive therapy over two or three years.
One type of applied behavioral analysis is the Early Start Denver Model, another behavioral intervention that combines behavioral analysis with developmental and relationship-based approaches.”The child is brought into interactive social relationships, using positive emotional exchanges and joint play activities. It improves cognitive, language, and adaptive behavioral skills.” Another type of applied behavior analysis is Discrete Trial Training (DTT), a teaching style that uses a series of trials to teach each step of a desired behavior or response. Pivotal Response Training (PRT) is also another type of applied behavioral analysis that aims to increase a child’s motivation to learn and have the child monitor their own behavior and monitor communication.
Verbal Behavior Intervention is a type of applied behavioral analysis that focuses on teaching verbal skills. Speech and Language Therapy aims at improving language and communication skills, which can improve children’s abilities to communicate with others socially. This intervention uses visual aids, toys, and stories, among other aids, to develop language skills. Occupational Therapy focuses on developing and maintenance of fine motor and adaptive skills. Occupational therapy also teaches skills that allow an individual to live as independently as possible. These skills may include eating, dressing, bathing, and relating to people.
Speech Therapy helps improve a person’s communication skills, and some people are able to learn verbal communication. However, for others using pictures and hand gestures is more appropriate and realistic.
There are other approaches and interventions for autistic spectrum disorders. These approaches include assistive technology, medicine, dietary regimens, and complementary and alternative medicine treatments: the latter includes special diets, vitamin supplements, chelation therapy. There is little to no evidence that complementary and alternative medicine treatments work, and some may be potentially dangerous. Having said that, dietary approaches or safe alternative medicine treatments can complement other formal applied behavioral approaches but should not substitute seeking professional help.