Autism Spectrum Therapies

Various Therapies and Interventions for Individuals on the Spectrum

Autism is a neurological disorder which impairs social skill development, language development and external awareness or interest. These factors are considered the diagnostic criteria for autism, and can apply to anyone on the spectrum. The spectrum disorders contain several types of affective autism disorders. These are known as Autism Spectrum Disorders, or ASDs. Included in this diagnostic group are autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, pervasive development disorder and non-specified disorder. These are recognized by the qualifying impairments.  Interventions and therapeutic strategies are specifically designed to target the impairments associated with the identified placement on the spectrum.

Contrary to the claims of books and programs, there is no known cure for autism. Researchers are still seeking the causal links to autism, while diagnostic rates increase each year. While these answers are sought, interventions are developed to address social, mental, learning and language impairments for individuals on the spectrum. Interventions are classified into three groups; medical, behavioral and educational.

Medical interventions for autism address both spectrum disorders and simultaneous diagnoses common with ASDs. Anxiety is an especially common diagnosis for individuals on the spectrum. Medication is often prescribed to reduce anxiety so that behavioral interventions are possible. Psychiatric care is often a key component of the treatment of ASDs. Neurologists and other specialists may be a part of the medical care team for the individual on the spectrum.

Dietary therapy is one approach that has been accepted within the ASD caregiver community. Some studies have indicated that there is a link to dietary disorders and symptoms of autism. A few of these treatment plans claim that autism can be reversed through extreme dietary measures. This is not scientifically or medically verified. However, some parents strongly believe that there is a link between food allergy and autism. Vitamin and herbal supplement regimens are included in this approach.

Behavioral interventions are even more diversified than the medical approach. These therapies are designed to target specific social impairments consistent with and ASD diagnosis. Some therapies strategize to target anxiety while others target social interactions and communication. These therapies have attained varying levels of endorsement from the scientific community, which does not seem to significantly affect the preference of parents and caregivers. Many parents feel that since we know so little about the origins of autism, a trial and error approach is ideal.

Applied Behavior Analysis is the most scientifically endorsed intervention for children on the spectrum. ABA orders the environment of the child and controls the reinforcement for behavior. This serves to eliminate problematic behavior by replacing it with pro-social behavior.

Floortime is another widely accepted therapeutic approach for autism. This therapy focuses on the emotional and internal structures of the child, whereas ABA is environmentally focused. Floortime is most effective with young children, often prior to diagnosis when symptomatic behaviors to indicate ASDs are present.

Hippotherapy incorporates animal riding and is used as a sensory approach to bonding and reducing anxiety. This therapy is more controversial as it is not endorsed by any major medical field. However, many parents report that it is effective in treating and diminishing their child’s social anxiety.

Educational approaches are often incorporated into behavioral intervention strategies. These treat the language impairments which inhibit communication efforts for children with autism. Language deficits often lead to social impairments. One major strategy categorized in this group is the use of PECS, or the Picture Exchange Communication System.

Other educational strategies include occupational therapy and adaptive physical education. These strategies address the sensory disorders associated with ASDs. Occupational therapy is an especially effective treatment for children with autism. This helps children to focus on comforting solutions to sensory irritations, which is extremely helpful for behavioral and social interventions.

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