What are the therapies offered to Autistic patients? | Therapies of Autism

By Prapoorna M

Last Updated: November 27, 2021

Autism is a spectrum disorder that exhibits a wide variety of symptoms. Autism Spectrum disorder or ASD is a complex neurological disorder that results in the impairment of language and communication skills hindering social interaction, combining with rigid and repetitive behaviors. A person affected with Autism experiences many difficulties such as behavioral, cognitive, and psychological.

The behavioral difficulties include rigid and repetitive behaviors, compulsive behaviors, impulsivity, inappropriate social interactions, poor eye-contact and self harm etc. The cognitive difficulties include speech problems, learning difficulties and attention deficit etc. The Psychological difficulties include having depression, anxiety, being unaware of or unable to understand other’s emotions, being sensitive to sound etc.

With all these problems around, it becomes highly difficult for them to interact with people and to have an independent existence as they grow up. This highly affects their confidence and hurts their emotions making them too harsh inside. Being unable to express their anguish, results in self harm like head-banging, rocking back and forth vigorously or hurting others. Early intervention and treatment plans according to their needs, helps the Autistic people to come out of their difficulties and lead a peaceful life.

There are many therapies offered to the Autistic people to cater to their needs. The therapies such as Speech therapy, occupational therapy, special education, behavioral therapy, social skills therapy, and psychological therapy are the major ones.

Speech Therapy

Speech therapist doing speech therapy
Speech therapist doing speech therapy

Communication is highly important for anyone in the world to convey what he/she feels or thinks. Being in a society, a person has to converse with fellow beings for the daily activities. It is only then, one can be able to live individually and independently in this world.

But Autism hinders the ability to communicate effectively. The Autistic child will find it difficult to convey what is there in his or her mind and will be unable to understand what others say. They experience delayed development of speech and language, difficulty with conversation, forming relationships, and socializing with peers, family members, and others. Further they have learning disabilities, expressive and receptive language difficulties, attention and listening problems, social communication problems along with difficulties in functioning of oral peripheral mechanism.

Speech pathologists are specialists who are able to identify whether a child’s language and communication development is delayed or different from that of other children, and whether it shows signs typical of ASD. Speech pathologist plays an integral role in the assessment and the treatment of children with an ASD and reports the assessment results and clinical information to other members of the interdisciplinary team. The speech pathologist has expertise in the areas of social communication, speech and language development, learning and cognitive abilities and play skills.

Speech and Language therapists or SLTs work closely with the Autistic child to provide treatments such as oral-motor exercises to improve his/her speech, expressive and receptive language programs, social skills therapy along with both group and individual therapy. Speech pathologists also work in home-based programs to educate parents about effective communication strategies in everyday situations, and incorporate predictable routines and motivating activities that help a child with the generalization of skills. Such treatments are designed according to their needs help the child in overcoming speech and language difficulties.

Areas of therapy may vary depending on the child’s current skills, they include the development of Alternate communication systems for the child who isn’t talking e.g., use of photos, pictures or signing and Vocabulary, syntax, semantics, and articulation for the child who is verbal.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy relates to physical and psychiatric conditions, which are assessed, diagnosed and treated in a procedural way. They assist children to manage the sensory sensitivities, as well as the behavioral and coordination difficulties, that often accompany ASD. OTs also helps children to overcome challenges they may have with daily activities. OTs use children’s everyday activities as the focus of intervention and are expert at modifying activities and environments to better suit a child’s needs. Due to wide variety of variations experienced by individuals with Autism, the treatment approach adopted by occupational therapists would also be different to each one.

Occupational therapist doing Occupational therapy
Occupational therapist doing Occupational therapy

Children with Autism experience difficulties with play, managing transitions, selfcare, or school-work tasks such as concentrating and writing, or has sensory and coordination difficulties. OTs specializes in enhancing children’s development and skill acquisition and, when necessary, designing support programs that allow children to use their skills and strengths optimally. The aim of an occupational therapy session is to improve a child’s ability to perform a wide range of play, self-care, social, and school-related activities to maximize the child’s skills for living. The OT will consider the physical, social, and cultural circumstances of each child before developing a treatment plan that is tailored to the child’s development and needs.

Occupational therapy sessions for a young child might involve developing play skills that include social interaction, sharing, and taking turns. Teaching self-care activities like toileting, bathing, and feeding. Further engaging the child in activities to improve the child’s fine and gross motor skills. Behavior management such as learning to sit and wait, and strategies and interventions that address sensory difficulties.

For a school-aged child, an occupational therapy session might involve additional activities such as active movement, role-plays, stress reduction techniques, handwriting practice, or participation in a social skills group with other children. As the child gets older, these activities might expand to include organizing and managing friendships, interests, and responsibilities.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral intervention reduces specific behaviors that are undesirable, while simultaneously promoting new behaviors and skills that are desirable. Provide social skill development using behavioral strategies and interventions such as social/behavioral scripts, role-plays, and social stories to improve interaction and communication skills including making eye contact, using appropriate greetings, developing listening and turn-taking skills. BTs develop children’s awareness of their difficulties and emotions, and to increase understanding of social cues and conventional behavior.

Working with parents, other careers, and professionals such as teachers to provide them with strategies to assist the child function better in the home, school, and other environments. BT help children with ASD to manage their anxiety levels. Because children with ASD have difficulty understanding their environment and the behavior of others, they are at risk of developing anxiety disorders. Psychologists work with children who have ASD, as well as with their families and other careers, to teach them how ASD-related anxiety can be monitored and reduced.

Professionals who are concerned about a child’s intellectual, behavioral, social, and/or communication abilities should refer the child for assessment by a psychologist. This will provide information about whether the child is developing at an appropriate level for his or her age. For example, a child should be referred for assessment by a psychologist if he or she is exhibiting unusual levels of fear, stress, or anxiety, has difficulty socializing, experiencing difficulties with learning or engaging in unusual behaviors.

Intervention by a psychologist is important for children with ASD. Psychologists use a range of techniques including behavioral strategies, skills training, and emotional regulation to help children with ASD cope better in their everyday lives.

Behavior therapist doing Behavioral therapy
Behavior therapist doing Behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a combination of psychotherapy and behavioral therapy to cope up with their cognitive difficulties that might affect their cognitive processes like thinking, behaving, having attitudes and beliefs, and develop new ways of thinking that results in their overall well-being and improvement in their quality of life. The psychological conditions like depression, panic attacks, anxiety etc. are usually faced by Autistic individuals, which can be successfully treated by cognitive behavioral therapy.

This therapy focuses on changing thought patterns and dealing with problems caused in both present and past experiences. Not only Autistic patients but also the individuals who have negative thoughts and psychological conditions like depression, anxiety etc., can be treated by this
Cognitive behavioral therapy.

Social skills Therapy

Social Skills therapy includes the activities designed to train the Autistic children to mingle in the groups of certain age and ability they have in similar. This program is designed to help children with those specific diagnoses that experience difficulty in mastering social skills from typically developing children. Practicing interactions and communications in a specific group of similar age and ability enables them to communicate well. These programs include responding to peers, making good body language, maintaining friendships, social initiation skills and self-comfort skills, observational learning, playground skills, group behavior skills etc.

Special Education

It is said that, “If a child cannot learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn”. The concept of special education is based exactly on the same principle. The learning disabilities like dyslexia, dysgraphia etc., non-verbal learning disabilities, language processing disorders, communication disorders, emotional and behavioral disorders, inabilities due to physical and developmental disorders etc., affect the child’s ability to perceive what others convey and hinder the ability to express themselves too. With different scientific approaches to teaching methods and with a specifically adapted area, special education helps the students with disabilities to learn the things that are useful for life.

Therapist offering Special education session
Therapist offering Special education session

All these therapists work closely with the patient, their parents, caretakers, and the other professionals involved in their health care, by providing support, training and advice on all aspects of the individual’s treatment.

We at Wellness hub have a team of experienced professionals who work as a special team for each child, providing individual treatment that helps the Autistic child to cope with the difficulties he or she faces. Every Autistic child is different and they define Autism with their needs. Hence special care is needed for each child in a different way, and we are here to provide it. Log on to call or book an appointment for the early intervention of Autism.