Tips for Parenting a Child With Autism
4. Review the Recommended Autism Treatment Options
Child development experts agree that a child with autism should receive treatment as soon after diagnosis as possible. There is no cure for autism, but early intervention using skills training and behavior modification techniques can yield good results. This type of educational and behavioral treatment tackles autism symptoms -- impaired social interaction, communication problems, and repetitive behaviors -- and can boost an autistic child's chances of being able to go to school and participate in normal activities.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following strategies for helping a child with autism improve overall function and reach his or her potential:
- Behavioral training and management. Behavioral training and management uses positive reinforcement, self-help, and social skills training to improve behavior and communication. Many types of treatments have been developed, including Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH), and sensory integration.
- Specialized therapies. Specialized therapies include speech, occupational, and physical therapy. These therapies are important components of managing autism and should all be included in various aspects of the child's treatment program.
Speech therapy can help a child with autism improve language and social skills to communicate more effectively. Occupational and physical therapy can help improve any deficiencies in coordination, muscle tone, and motor skills. Occupational therapy may also help a child with autism to learn to process information from the senses (sight, sound, hearing, touch, and smell) in more manageable ways. It can also help in performing normal activities of daily living.
Remember, when considering any type of treatment for your child, it is important to know the source of information and to ensure that studies are scientifically sound. Accounts of individual success are not sufficient evidence to support using a treatment. Look for large, controlled studies to validate claims.
5. Learn More About Behavioral Training
Behavioral training teaches people of all ages with autism how to communicate appropriately. This type of training can reduce behavior problems and improve adaptation skills.
Both behavioral training and behavioral management use positive reinforcement to improve behavior. These therapies also use social skills training to improve communication. The specific program should be chosen according to the child's needs. As an example, a high-functioning child with autism may be enrolled in mainstream classrooms and child care facilities. The behaviors of other normally developing children can provide examples for the child with autism to follow. However, other children with autism are overly stimulated in a regular classroom and work best in smaller, highly structured environments.
Consistent use of these behavioral interventions produces the best results for the child with autism. The child's functional abilities, behavior, and daily environment should be thoroughly assessed before behavioral training and management begins. Parents, other family members, teachers, and caregivers of the autistic child should all be trained in these techniques.