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Treatment for autism spectrum disorder

Updated: Dec 13, 2022



Autism spectrum disorder


The term Autism spectrum disorder is often used to clinically define a person diagnosed with autism. This condition is due to developmental differences in the brain of the autistic person.

The child faces challenges in three major domains- social interaction, behavior, and learning skills. The symptoms are different in every individual hence the name autism spectrum disorder. It can affect individuals from all races, ethnicities, genders, and backgrounds. However, there is a genetic predisposition to autism.


Signs and symptoms of autism


The signs and symptoms of autism fall under three major domains- restricted social interaction, behavioral issues, and impact on language and learning skills.


Social interaction and communication skills-

  • Respond slowly or won’t respond when you call their name.

  • Has difficulty sharing interests, activities, or emotions.

  • The child talks about a topic for a long duration without realizing the other person is losing interest in the topic.

  • Difficulty in understanding or predicting other people's actions.

  • They might be uncomfortable in social settings.

  • They don’t like being held or cuddled.

Language and learning skills-

  • The child might repeat words or phrases again and again.

  • They may have speech delays.

  • Have difficulty in keeping up a two-way conversation.

  • They have an unusual tone when they talk- a singsong voice or a robotic voice.

  • Have difficulty making eye contact while talking.

Behavior-

  • Gets used to things being arranged a certain way and gets angry when things are being moved.

  • Has ritualistic behavior and has difficulty adapting to changes in routine.

  • Gets fascinated by objects like moving wheels or parts of objects.

  • Showing lasting intense interest in certain topics like numbers, facts, or details.

  • Play with the same toys every time.

  • Increased or decreased sensitivity to light, smell, sound, clothing, or touch.

A few strengths of an autistic person are:

  • Strong auditory and visual learners.

  • Remember certain information vividly.

  • May excel in subjects like math, music, etc, as they pay attention to detail.

  • Can hyperfocus

  • Creativity


As the name suggests, there is a wide spectrum of symptoms, and it’s not mandatory that the child will present with all the characteristic symptoms.


What happens if autism is not treated?


If autism is untreated, misdiagnosed or diagnosis is delayed, the child will not be able to cope with the difficulties they face and their symptoms might worsen or there might be the appearance of new symptoms. They will lag in acquiring competent skills for social interaction, learning, and speech and may present with behavioral issues making them dependent on others.


Several pieces of research have implicated that autism can impact an individual's physical and mental health. If left untreated the person can present with at least one psychiatric condition, such as mood disorders, anxiety, a tendency for self-harm, or psychotic disorder in adulthood.


Timely intervention in autism can help them learn how to communicate, how to understand others, how to handle sensory overload, and how to take care of themselves, and improves their cognitive abilities.


Types of therapy for Autism


Treatment for autism includes various intervention therapies like:


Behavioral intervention


  • Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a notable technique involving assessment, treatment, encouraging desired behaviors, and discouraging undesirable behavior in the child.

  • Social intervention facilitates social interaction and may include peer training often in social settings.

  • Play and interaction intervention involves interaction between children and parents to stimulate imitation, joint attention skills, or the child’s ability to be involved in symbolic play.

  • Interventions to omit the associated symptoms like anxiety, and mood disorders, are often associated with ASD.

Developmental intervention includes the role of


  • Speech-language pathologists(SLPs)- They have expertise in communication and speech therapy. They help the autistic person in the articulation of words, initiating conversations, communicating both non-verbally and verbally, developing relationships, using appropriate gestures at appropriate times, and learning self-control. They also help the child to communicate non-verbally by use of various picture cards, gestures, and electronic means like typing or electronic talkers.


  • Occupational therapists- often aim to help with activities that are involved in daily life. They help in improving gross motor skills like walking or climbing stairs, fine motor skills like using scissors or buttoning a shirt, visual skills like reading, and maintaining body posture.


  • Sensory integration therapy- helps the child improve responses to sensory stimuli that can be overwhelming.


Educational intervention


  • It is very effective for a child with autism, it is focused on improving educational and cognitive skills, often administered in educational settings.

  • TEACCH( Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication-handicapped Children) is a program for autistic children that involves a structured teaching program that promotes visual learning and is based on the unique needs of every child. It provides certain strategies to teachers to facilitate the environment for learning and social interaction, it is usually applied in classroom settings, for instance, the daily routine can be written down, and verbal information can be combined with visual information.



Medical and related intervention


  • It involves the use of various drugs like antipsychotics, psychostimulants, and SRIs that focus on managing psychological conditions like anxiety, the tendency to self-harm, hyperactivity, and the inability to focus.


Does speech therapy work for autism?


Yes, speech therapy can be quite useful for a child with autism, as it facilitates social interaction and communication. Speech therapy helps the child adjust better in social settings. It can be helpful for both verbal and non-verbal skills.


Verbal skills-

  • Helps in naming objects and people better.

  • Expressing their feelings better.

  • Using words and forming sentences better.

  • Understanding what the other person is saying.

  • Taking turns in conversation.


Non-verbal skills-

  • Make eye contact.

  • Learn to self-regulate.

  • Use pointing, gestures, and sign language.

  • Use picture symbols to express themselves.



How do you teach an autistic child to talk?

  • Parent-child interaction is very important to help in minimizing the symptoms of autism in a child and in the development of social communication skills.

  • Infant-directed speech is the speech we use while talking to an infant or a toddler like speaking slowly, with more repetitions and a higher pitch. It can help the child in developing joint attention skills, a larger vocabulary, and language development, and the higher pitch helps them learn when words begin and when they end.

  • Exposure to a larger quantity and variety of words can be helpful in language development in the child.

  • Responsiveness is a very important variable for the development of social skills. Several kinds of research have concluded that maternal responses to various gestures, imitations, or social exchange plays an important role in the development of language and social skills in a child.


What percentage of children with autism recover?


Although scientifically it is believed that a person cannot fully recover from autism, several researchers have concluded that with timely diagnosis and intervention 3% to 25% of autistic individuals lose their ASD diagnosis and develop social, cognitive, and adaptive skills.



Is ADHD a part of Autism? Can ADHD be mistaken for Autism?


Although ADHD and Autism can present with many similar symptoms, the two are quite distinct conditions. A few similarities in both conditions are-

  • The child has difficulty paying attention. It can be due to difficulty in understanding language.

  • The children present with difficulty in social settings. They avoid eye contact, or they may get into other people’s personal space.

  • They may have trouble with schoolwork and friendship.

Two conditions are distinct as-

  • In autism, the child has difficulty focusing on things they dislike, however they may be overly focused on things that interest them, in ADHD, a child dislikes any activities they have to concentrate on.

  • In autism, a child might have difficulty putting words together, whereas a child with ADHD talks nonstop. Sometimes a child with autism may talk nonstop about topics of their interest.

  • In autism, a child likes order and exhibits restrictive repetition. But a child with ADHD does not like repetitions.

Sometimes the common symptoms may lead to misdiagnosis of the condition, hence you should visit a speech-language pathologist or a pediatrician as timely intervention can be quite helpful in both situations.


Sounderic provides online speech therapy sessions for children with various communication disorders. We would love to help you. Get in touch with us on WhatsApp at +919644466635 or schedule a consultation with us at https://www.sounderic.com/service-page/speech-language-consultation-for-kids?referral=service_list_widget


Follow us on Facebook, and Instagram or join our community of 18,000 parents from all across the world here, "Speech therapy guide for parents".




References:



2. Therapies for children with autism spectrum disorder


3. Handbook of parent-child interaction therapy for children on autism spectrum disorder. - Cheryl Bodiford McNeil Lauren Borduin Quetsch Cynthia M. Anderson


4. Can Children with Autism Recover? If So, How?


5. ADHD and Autism Written by John Perritano


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