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10 Types of Autism Therapy

Learn about 10 types of autism therapy from pediatrician and child development expert Asma J. Sadiq, M.D. in this Howcast video.



There are many types of therapies that are available that are being used with children with autism, and it has to be tailored to the child's particular needs. For example, if a child has speech delay, we provide speech therapy. Even if a child doesn't have exactly the delay in putting words together, but has atypical or difficulty with what they call pragmatics, which is staying on topic, the child would still benefit from speech therapy. Occupational therapy and sensory issues is another thing based on the child's particular needs. Similarly for physical therapy, not all children have motor delay, but they can have motor coordination issues, particularly kids with Asperger’s have difficulty with high level motor functioning, but one of the most common and important therapies is really the behavioral therapy piece for children with the autism spectrum, and because the behavior is what is the diagnostic criteria, and comes in the way of their learning dramatically.

So, ABA which is Applied Behavior Analysis has been the most commonly used, developed by Dr. Lovaas. It's been used for many years, and is approved now by early intervention, but similar behavior therapies include DIRFloortime developed by Dr. Stanley Greenspan, which is more naturalized with floortime and cycles of interaction. There's also a relationship developmental instruction called RDI, which is more parent-based. So, there're a whole slew of interventions. One of the ones that is commonly used in schools is the TEACCH, and depending on how much language and communication the child has, there's also a picture-based communication system called the PECS. So, therapies are varied.

The most important is to cover the behavioral piece, but also look at sensory, speech and language. You also do need to look at medical issues, because a lot of these children have sleep problems, and can have medical digestive issues, food intolerances, and I think medical therapies, biomedical therapy should also be looked at, and not just look at symptoms as being part of autism, but child may be uncomfortable or wanting to rub themselves against, for example, a sofa chair because they've abdominal pain. Maybe they have reflux or food intolerance, for example. So, therapy has to be tailored to the child individually, but there're general therapies that have been used and studied and researched, which are beneficial.

And, the biggest push is to get the behavioral piece in because that's the piece that helps with social communication, and that helps you relate to peers, communicate, and also helps a lot with learning. So, those are only a few of the many therapies that are out there. We have swimming with dolphins, for example, that has also been used to make kids happier that's talked about or pet therapy. So, there is really a laundry list, and you have to tailor it to your particular individual child and his needs, and also do things on a gradient. Do not get overwhelmed by trying to do everything together at the same time.

So much that I say not to do everything at the same time, it's because parents, sometimes get so overwhelmed by it all, and I have to remind them that this is a marathon; it's not a sprint. So, you have to pace yourself, and it is true that it is often a combination of therapies that brings together the best or the optimal results for a child, but it is important to do it on a gradient, and watch which one makes the best difference, but often it is a combination of therapies that actually help the child get to a higher level of functioning.


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