People with autism are often thought of as being unable to communicate. However, they have a wide range of skills that they can develop and improve over time. One of these is their ability to learn new things in less traditional ways, using nonverbal methods such as pointing, gesturing, and drawing.
To help you connect with your child or loved one with autism more efficiently and effectively through play-based learning activities, here are five different treatment options for autism that we’ve found helpful:
1. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA therapy)
Applied behavior analysis collects data on a client’s behavior and then uses positive reinforcement to encourage more desirable behaviors. ABA therapy is often used to treat people with autism spectrum disorders, effectively decreasing self-injurious behaviors, such as head-banging.
The process involves a team of professionals developing an individualized treatment plan for each child. Both parents and teachers are included in the planning team to help them better understand how to interact with their children.
ABA can help promote play-based learning by increasing access to different sensory experiences. ABA is most effective when it begins before age four. Parents and teachers should closely monitor the child’s interests, look for signals that they are getting bored and ready to move on to something else, and use an ABA reward system to encourage play-based learning behaviors.
2. Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapy is another commonly used treatment option for children with autism. This treatment is based on the theory that children with autism are hypersensitive to touch, texture, and movement.
Occupational therapists help to decrease the child’s sensitivity by using activities such as brushing clothes, tapping a child’s back, and even going on a car ride. The therapist also works with parents and teachers to help them recognize signs of sensory overload in their child and to respond appropriately using behavioral techniques.
The overall goal of occupational therapy is to improve everyday life skills to aid in self-reliance and independence. Occupational therapists use various behavioral techniques to help children with autism learn and develop new skills.
Their work is most effective when it begins before age four, as their interventions make a significant difference in the development of better communication, self-help skills, and social interaction.
3. Physical Therapy
Physical therapy is another treatment option used to improve self-help skills. For example, physical therapy teaches a child how to lift and dress, enhancing his independence from others. It also helps to improve fine motor skills.
The therapist works with parents and teachers on ways to develop a play-based curriculum that also incorporates movement activities as an effective way of learning.
Physical therapy aims to reduce the child’s stress and improve his self-reliance. The therapist starts by helping the child to identify body movements and then teaches him how to use these movements in different ways.
For example, therapists can teach a child how to use his arm to scrape an object or to pick up an object with his fingers. The process is most effective when it begins before age four, as early interventions show better effects on daily living skills.
4. Speech Therapy
Speech therapy is an effective treatment option used to improve the child’s communication skills. Many children with autism can communicate using pantomime, but they have difficulty using actual words.
A speech therapist will work with parents and teachers to develop a play-based curriculum incorporating gestures and pictures to learn the language. In time, the child may be able to use actual words instead of mimesis or gestures for verbal expression.
A speech therapist will also work with a child to assess their communication challenges and strengths. The therapist also assesses the child’s progress on an ongoing basis to ensure that the activities are effective in bringing about change. Speech therapy is most effective when it begins before age four, as early interventions improve the child’s ability to communicate.
5. Nutritional Therapy
Nutritional therapy is a treatment option that involves working with parents and teachers to ensure that children with autism get the proper amount of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. This treatment often includes non-nutritive methods of supplementing a child’s diet.
Parents and teachers also need to learn how to feed their children appropriately. For instance, parents can give the child a spoon if it will help him take the proper amount of food.
Nutritional therapy aims to ensure that a child’s diet has the proper balance of nutrients and to help improve growth, development, and communication abilities. It also enhances daily living skills such as eating, self-help, and fine motor skills.
In summary, many different types of treatment can be used to develop a child’s social, emotional, and behavioral skills. Each child is unique in how he learns, the type of treatment he will respond well to, and when those treatments should begin.