Parenting

Treating Autism

Treating Autism

Key Takeaways

  • To choose the best treatment programs for a child with ASD, it is important to work with medical specialists and therapists.
  • Therapies vary depending on the needs of the child.
  • Applied behavioral analysis, relationship development intervention, and cognitive behavior therapy are three common intervention programs that can be recommended for a child with ASD.
  • In some cases, medical treatments may be recommended for individuals with autism in order to treat specific symptoms, such as OCD, depression, aggressive behaviors, hyperactivity, and seizures.

Since symptoms of autism can vary depending on the child, and behaviors can often change over time, treatment solutions should be tailored to individual needs. A program should improve a child’s communication skills while addressing social, behavioral, and learning aspects of a child’s life. Moreover, they should help parents as they walk through this journey as a family.

How To Choose a Program

In order to choose the best treatment program for a child with ASD, it’s important to work with medical specialists and therapists. Therapies for children are different from interventions for adolescents and adults. For example, early intervention will typically include a child’s entire family, and involve comprehensive behavioral early intervention. Adolescents with ASD will benefit from transition services that encourage a successful maturation into independence and employment opportunities of adulthood.

Intervention programs may take place in a specialized center, school, preschool, or even your home.

Some of the common intervention programs include:

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT):

This form of therapy is used to help individuals with ASD regulate, understand, and control their emotions; moreover, this therapy is used to help improve their behavior. Since many people with ASD struggle with anxiety and depression, cognitive behavior therapy can be very helpful. It can reduce anxiety, fears, and depression by making changes in thoughts and perceptions of environment and situations through a change in cognition. The goal of this therapy is to also reduce obsessions, angry outbursts, and meltdowns, in addition to teaching individuals with ASD to understand their feelings and manage them.
This treatment can be customized for each patient, and as a result, is very effective in changing and improving behaviors in children and young adults.

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA):

Applied Behavioral Analysis is used to teach communication, self-care, work, and social skills. It’s very effective for improving a child's cognitive and language abilities. ABA programs offer support for children in school settings: skills are broken down into multiple pieces so that the child can build on what they have learned in a natural environment.

This is a three-step process:
1. An antecedent: a verbal or physical stimulus, such as a request or a command; it can come from another person, environment, or be internal to the subject (child)

2. A resulting behavior: the child’s response or lack of response to the antecedent

3. A consequence: depends on the resulting behavior; a positive reinforcement if the behavior is desired, or no reaction for the undesired or incorrect response.

Relationship Development Intervention (RDI):

This form of therapy uses positive reinforcement in order to modify behavior. Usually, a child with ASD will begin by working with a parent, caregiver, or a teacher, and will then be eventually matched with a peer who is on a similar level of development. RDI is a personalized therapy that includes developing communication styles that best suit each child.

It focuses on six core objectives:

1. Emotional referencing

2. Social coordination

3. Declarative language

4. Flexible thinking

5. Relational information processing

6. Hindsight and foresight

Medication Treatments

Medications cannot cure autism, but some symptoms of ASD can be controlled by certain drugs. Your doctor should decide which drugs, if any, could help with your child’s particular symptoms.

OCD and Depression: Fluoxetine and sertraline are used to treat depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Aggressive behavior: Risperidone is used as a treatment for aggression, self-injury, and temper tantrums.

Hyperactivity: Stimulants like methylphenidate and dextroamphetamine are used for attention problems and hyperactivity.

 Seizures: Carbamazepine and valproic acid can successfully treat seizures.