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5 Most Common Therapies for Autism

Therapists use numerous therapeutic approaches to help children with autism addressing their diverse challenges in social skills, speech, nonverbal communication, repetitive behaviors, and maladaptive tendencies.

In the early stages of a child’s development, certain signs may indicate autism, such as limited laughter, unconventional play, aversive behaviors, and reluctance to respond to their name.

Early intervention, especially for young children with developmental delays, leads to optimal outcomes by providing effective support to these children as well as their parents. 

Current autism therapies aim to reduce impairing symptoms, utilizing personalized and multidisciplinary approaches to meet the individual needs of children with autism spectrum disorder. 

Therapies to Support Children with Autism

Multiple therapies are available to support children with autism, with the recommended approach varying based on factors like age, personality, and individual needs.

Autism often coexists with various mental health and physiological conditions in which cases collaboration among different therapies and providers can yield significant benefits and improved outcomes.

Behavioral Management Therapy

Behavior management therapy focuses on reinforcing desired behaviors while decreasing unwanted ones. Caregivers are guided on how to handle situations before, during, and after episodes of problem behaviors.

Typically based on applied behavior analysis (ABA), behavioral therapy monitors a child’s skill development and progress closely, making it a widely accepted and effective approach. At the moment, there are numerous offices offering ABA therapy, and some of them, such as Abacus Therapies, provide full support and consulting services.

Various types of behavioral management therapy are commonly used for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including:

  • Positive Behavioral and Support (PBS): Identifies the reasons behind problem behaviors and makes environmental changes to encourage positive behaviors while teaching new skills.
  • Pivotal Response Training (PRT): Focuses on pivotal skills like motivation and communication initiation to improve overall learning and coping abilities.
  • Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI): Provides personalized, intensive behavioral instruction to very young children with ASD through one-on-one or small-group sessions.
  • Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT): Teaches skills in a structured, step-by-step manner, using positive reinforcement to encourage the child to develop new abilities.

It’s essential to remember that there are other behavioral therapies that may also be effective for individuals with ASD. Consulting with a healthcare provider will help determine the best options for each child’s unique needs.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) centers on understanding the interplay between thoughts, emotions, and actions.

In collaboration with the therapist, individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and/or their parents set clear therapy objectives. During the sessions, they work on recognizing and modifying thoughts that contribute to challenging feelings or behaviors in specific situations.

Cognitive behavior therapy follows a structured approach with specific treatment phases, while also tailoring to individual strengths and weaknesses. Research indicates its effectiveness in assisting individuals with certain types of ASD in managing anxiety, coping with social situations, and enhancing emotional recognition skills. This therapy offers valuable support to improve the overall well-being of people with autism.

Play Therapy

Autism play therapy stands apart from play therapy for other conditions, employing a more targeted and prescriptive approach to suit the unique needs of children with autism. This therapy utilizes play as a medium to guide children with autism in interacting with others according to their distinctive understanding of the world.

Autism’s impact on peer engagement often leads children to intensely focus on one aspect of a toy and exhibit limited involvement in pretend play. Play therapy addresses these challenges, fostering meaningful social interactions.

A skilled therapist assists children in broadening their focus and approach during play therapy, facilitating collaborative experiences and forming connections with others. Through play, kids explore their surroundings, emotions, and relationships, nurturing their interests and abilities, which contributes to positive growth and development in their social interactions and overall well-being.

Speech-Language Therapy

Speech-language therapy is a valuable support for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), improving communication and social interaction abilities. It targets verbal skills, enhancing spoken language proficiency in naming, expressing emotions, and using words effectively.

This therapy also addresses nonverbal communication, teaching hand signals, sign language, and using picture symbols like PECS. It fosters clearer speech rate and rhythm for more effective communication.

For higher-functioning individuals, speech therapy is particularly beneficial, aiding in communication improvement and overcoming social isolation.

However, severe autism may limit participation in speech therapy.

Overall, speech therapy can greatly enhance the lives of those with ASD, but individual needs and challenges must be considered, with alternative therapies considered for severe cases.

Nutritional Therapy

Children with ASD face challenges in obtaining proper nutrition for healthy growth and development due to sensory sensitivities and associations with discomfort. Some stick to specific foods based on mouthfeel, while others avoid certain foods due to stomach pain.

Restricted diets, aimed at alleviating autism symptoms, contribute to unique eating patterns in these children. Therefore, attentive support is crucial to ensure they receive adequate nutrition.

Involving a nutrition specialist or healthcare provider when creating a meal plan, especially for limited diets, is essential. Collaborating with experts ensures proper nutrient intake, supporting overall well-being as they grow into adulthood.

For example, gluten-free or casein-free diets are common, but research doesn’t fully support them as primary treatments for ASD. Evidence-based information and consultation with healthcare professionals are key to determining the best interventions for each child’s specific needs.

Wrapping Up

Autism introduces diverse challenges that require individualized and multidisciplinary therapeutic approaches, and early intervention plays a pivotal role in achieving optimal outcomes. 

By offering personalized support, we can empower children with ASD to flourish socially, emotionally, and cognitively, enhancing their overall well-being and quality of life.

Amber Louchart
Author: Amber Louchart

Amber is the proud mother to four beautiful children, Damian (27), Rosaleigh (14), Carlyn (11), and Naomi (8). Her family also includes four cats. She loves being a stay-at-home mom and feels blessed to be able to care for her children full-time and provide them with so many opportunities through Metro Detroit Mommy. In addition to Metro Detroit Mommy, Amber has a passion for hosting karaoke with Malibu Entertainment.  She enjoys the metro Detroit nightlife especially, singing, dancing and meeting new people.