Due to a lack of complete biological understanding and specific cure for Autism, a multi-modal pattern of treatment using therapies and neural medication is used to diminish the symptoms of Autism disorder. Since both social and communication challenges are an integral part of the autism diagnosis, behavioral and speech therapy typically helps the treatment pattern. But the challenge for clinicians is that no single therapy plan works for all autistic children.
Generally, the most successful approach for autistic children is behavioral therapy. Many people think that such therapies are needed only for children who are hyperactive or mentally unstable. But these therapies are not just associated with mental retardation but are beneficial for Autism symptoms in every patient case. Behavioral therapies for autism are the main tools for developing social skills and perception.
Types of Behavioral Therapies for Autism
- Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
ABA therapy is the most researched and used behavioral therapy for Autism. This is a highly structured and scientific approach that teaches play, communication, academic, and social living skills. In ABA therapy, the therapist breaks down the skills into component parts and, through repetition, reinforcement, and encouragement, helps the autistic child learn. The therapist observes the child’s abilities and accordingly works towards what would benefit him/her, even when the child is not interested in learning some particular skills.
Therapists recommend as many as 40 hours a week of therapy even though skills improve and children begin to make friends, ABA therapy often continues to be useful.
- Verbal Behavior Therapy (VBT)
VBT therapy specializes in teaching non-vocal children how to communicate independently. To treat autism, it is not enough for autistic children to know how a toffee looks like and point towards it when they want it. They should be vocal in their needs by saying that they want a toffee. Through this VBT therapy, children with autism learn how to use words with effect. In these cases, the therapist uses stimuli like toffee or doll, that will attract a child’s interest, and the children are encouraged to understand how communication produces successful results.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT therapy is usually recommended for milder autism symptoms in children and this therapy generally aims to define the triggers of particular behaviors, so that a child starts to recognize those moments himself. Through practice, a therapist plans to introduce practical responses and thus help the autistic children to deal with situations of anxiety or fear.
These three behavioral therapies somehow cover the whole regime and the other behavioral models focus more on developing skills in children who are already working on their deficiencies in subtler ways.
- Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)
GDI is a family-centered approach to treat autism by focusing on emotional and social objectives meant to establish more meaningful relationships. This therapy is commonly used alongside parents who are trained by RDI therapists. Skills like interpersonal engagement and overall engagement with others are generally taught in RDI therapy.
- Social skills training
Social Skills Training help children engage in real-world difficulties with peers. While observational studies show them to be effective, research has not been showered with much success so far. A challenge that children with autism face are that they are comfortable interacting with adults but not much with their peers. Social skills groups train them to overcome this challenge.
Behavioral therapies are effective and safe but sadly, labor-intensive. Besides being labor-intensive, another challenge for the therapy is time duration. While the larger goal is to shift these children to the mainstream social group, shifting a child away from intensive behavioral programs too soon can hamper his progress. The children who receive behavioral therapy for a longer time, are more likely to outgrow the autism diagnosis entirely, even with less social interaction initially. More duration can lead to more age-appropriate skills later in life and allow an easier transition. Despite these, behavioral therapy still remains the most reliable way of skill development in children with autism. And though behavioral therapy is the foundation of skill-building for most children with autism, it is usually combined with speech therapy and occupational therapy.