• Sharon Starkey

What Do I Do Next? The Therapy Approaches:

Many people ask what therapy is right for my child or what do I do now that my child has been diagnosed? This blog will talk about the basic kinds of therapy available but by no means is this a complete list. I am highlighting the basic and most popular therapies. I do want to point out that there is no known cure for autism but therapies can help reduce symptoms.


Behavior and Communication Approaches

According to reports by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Research Council, behavior and communication approaches that help children with ASD are those that provide structure, direction, and organization for the child in addition to family participation.


Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) A notable treatment approach for people with ASD is called applied behavior analysis (ABA). ABA has become widely accepted among healthcare professionals and used in many schools and treatment clinics. ABA encourages positive behaviors and discourages negative behaviors to improve a variety of skills. The child’s progress is tracked and measured.


There are different types of ABA. Here are some examples:

  • Discrete Trial Training (DTT): DTT is a style of teaching that uses a series of trials to teach each step of a desired behavior or response. Lessons are broken down into their simplest parts, and positive reinforcement is used to reward correct answers and behaviors. Incorrect answers are ignored.

  • Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI): This is a type of ABA for very young children with ASD, usually younger than 5 and often younger than 3. EIBI uses a highly structured teaching approach to build positive behaviors (such as social communication) and reduce unwanted behaviors (such as tantrums, aggression, and self-injury). EIBI takes place in a one-on-one adult-to-child environment under the supervision of a trained professional.

  • Early Start Denver Model (ESDM): This is a type of ABA for children with ASD between the ages of 12-48 months. Through ESDM, parents and therapists use play and joint activities to help children advance their social, language, and cognitive skills.

  • Pivotal Response Training (PRT): PRT aims to increase a child’s motivation to learn, monitor their own behavior, and initiate communication with others. Positive changes in these behaviors are believed to have widespread effects on other behaviors.

  • Verbal Behavior Intervention (VBI): VBI is a type of ABA that focuses on teaching verbal skills.

  • Relationship Development Intervention

This relatively new behavior therapy focuses on social behaviors of the autistic child. The parents are more involved than a therapist when using RDI.


Assistive Technology Assistive technology, including devices such as communication boards and electronic tablets, can help people with ASD communicate and interact with others. For example, the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) uses picture symbols to teach communication skills. The person is taught to use picture symbols to ask and answer questions and have a conversation. Other individuals may use a tablet as a speech-generating or communication device.

Occupational Therapy Occupational therapy teaches skills that help the person live as independently as possible. Skills may include dressing, eating, bathing, and relating to people.


Speech Therapy Speech therapy helps to improve the person’s communication skills. Some people are able to learn verbal communication skills. For others, using gestures or picture boards is more realistic.


Social Skills Training Social skills training teaches children the skills they need to interact with others, including conversation and problem-solving skills.


Developmental, Individual Differences, Relationship-Based Approach (also called “Floortime”) Floortime focuses on emotional and relational development (feelings and relationships with caregivers). It also focuses on how the child deals with sights, sounds, and smells.


Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication-handicapped CHildren (TEACCH) TEACCH uses visual cues to teach skills. For example, picture cards can help teach a child how to get dressed by breaking information down into small steps.


Sensory Integration Therapy

This type of therapy works to improve a child’s sensitivities to sensory stimuli that may be overwhelming to the child. Loud noises, bright lights, and touches may all be addressed. A therapist using this type of therapy will introduce the child to increasingly higher levels of the stimuli being worked on. While the therapist does need to push the child’s limits, there is no force involved. Sensory integration therapy does not require a lot of time per session and positive results usually occur relatively quickly if this is going to work.


Hippotherapy

The term hippotherapy refers to how occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech-language pathology professionals use evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning in the purposeful manipulation of equine movement as a therapy tool to engage sensory, neuromotor and cognitive systems to promote functional outcomes.


LENS Neurofeedback

Low Energy Neurofeedback System (LENS) is an innovative, effective and a natural approach for emotional regulation. Neurofeedback is a form of EEG biofeedback based on the electroencephalogram. It is a scientifically proven brain-based technique that helps clients balance and normalize their brain function and body regulation.


Music Therapy

Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional.”


Cognitive Behavior Training

CBT is a regimented cognitive-behavioral process that uses a systematic, highly structured workshop-style approach to break down and replace dysfunctional emotionally dependent behaviors.

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