Treatment And Intervention Services For Autism Spectrum Disorder
Current treatments for autism spectrum disorder seek to reduce symptoms that interfere with daily functioning and quality of life.1 ASD affects each person differently, meaning that people with ASD have unique strengths and challenges and different treatment needs.1 Therefore, treatment plans usually involve multiple professionals and are catered toward the individual.
Treatments can be given in education, health, community, or home settings, or a combination of settings. It is important that providers communicate with each other and the person with ASD and their family to ensure that treatment goals and progress are meeting expectations.
As individuals with ASD exit from high school and grow into adulthood, additional services can help improve health and daily functioning, and facilitate social and community engagement. For some, supports to continue education, complete job training, find employment, and secure housing and transportation may be needed.
Therapies And Supports To Improve Communication And Social Skills
Improved communication and social understanding can lead to lower anxiety and less challenging behaviour in autistic children and teenagers. There are many therapies and supports that might increase your childs skills in these areas, and help you manage your childs behaviour.
A good first step is talking with your childs GP, paediatrician or psychologist, or another health professional who works with your child. They can help you find appropriate therapies and supports for your child. Psychologists, speech pathologists and experienced Applied Behaviour Analysis practitioners can help you with behaviour management if the behaviour continues to be a problem or you need support to deal with it.
Coping With Language And Communication Problems
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Have A Behavior Plan For Home
Similarly, it is important to determine triggers and reasons for behavior at home by working with a behavior therapist or other professional. As a result, developing an action plan together with your providers will help you be prepared at home.
- Keep the area safe and try to keep your child from hurting themselves or others
- At home
- Firstly, give your child space
- Secondly, lower the lights
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With so many different treatments available, it can be tough to figure out which approach is right for your child. Making things more complicated, you may hear different or even conflicting recommendations from parents, teachers, and doctors.
When putting together a treatment plan for your child, keep in mind that there is no single treatment that works for everyone. Each person on the autism spectrum is unique, with different strengths and weaknesses.
Your childs treatment should be tailored according to their individual needs. You know your child best, so its up to you to make sure those needs are being met. You can do that by asking yourself the following questions:
What are my childs strengths and their weaknesses?
What behaviors are causing the most problems? What important skills is my child lacking?
How does my child learn best through seeing, listening, or doing?
What does my child enjoy and how can those activities be used in treatment and to bolster learning?
Finally, keep in mind that no matter what treatment plan is chosen, your involvement is vital to success. You can help your child get the most out of treatment by working hand-in-hand with the treatment team and following through with the therapy at home.
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Tell The Child Specifically What You Expect And Allow Him To Earn Privileges For Complying With Your Expectations
For instance, if your child often has a tantrum in a store when he cant go to the toy aisle, tell him exactly what you expect of him before you go to the store and reward him with a privilege for following that expectation. For instance, you can say something like We are going to Target. We are going to the school supply aisle to buy paper and pens, and then we will pay and go home. Once in the store you can give reminders .
Let the child know that he can earn a privilege for following the rules. Privilege ideas include getting a sticker of a favorite character, playing a favorite game once at home, watching a favorite show, going on the computer, staying up ten minutes past bed time, etc. Try to think of a privilege that your child might like or ask him what he would like to work towards.
When the child earns the privilege, praise him with specific language. In the example above you could say, You followed the rules at the Target. We got the paper and pens, paid, and came home. Nice work! Now you can enjoy some computer time. Make sure the privilege is something the child wants. You can let the child choose what he would like to work for ahead of time. Children also benefit from nonverbal praise such as high fives, smiles, thumbs up, etc.
Finding The Right Medication
Shannon Des Roches Rosa, a co-editor of Thinking Persons Guide to Autism, says she first did absolutely everything to address her autistic son Leos violent behavior, including functional behavioral analysis to try to pinpoint his triggers and modify his environment. But by age 8, with Leo breaking TV screens with his fist and posing a danger to family members and himself, Rosa felt she had no choice but to try medication.
She found that, as is often the case, finding the right drug came down to trial and error. She first tried Abilify, an antipsychotic found to reduce irritability and aggression Abilify and Risperdal, another antipsychotic, are the only medications approved by the FDA for the treatment of ASD children. But when Abilify made Leo more anxious, aggressive and a different child, Rosa stopped the drug. She waited for it to get out of Leos system before trying Risperdal.
At this point I was pretty despondent, Rosa says,but the Risperdal did what it said it would do. Suddenly, Leo could just be himself and be comfortable again. Its not clear what we would have done if it hadnt helped him keep control over his aggressive impulses. And its also not clear what we would have done if the drug also made him act unlike himself if it had zombified him, or zeroed out his emotional responses.
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How Does Stimming Differ In Autistic People
Almost everyone engages in some form of self-stimulating behavior. You might bite your nails or twirl your hair around your fingers when youre bored, nervous, or need to relieve tension.
Stimming can become such a habit that youre not even aware youre doing it. For most people, its a harmless behavior. You recognize when and where its inappropriate.
For example, if youve been drumming your fingers on your desk for 20 minutes, you take social cues that youre irritating others and choose to stop.
In autistic people, stimming might be more obvious. For example, it may present as full-body rocking back and forth, twirling, or flapping the hands. It can also go on for long periods. Often, the individual has less social awareness that the behavior might be disruptive to others.
Stimming associated with autism isnt always cause for concern.
It only becomes an issue if it interferes with learning, results in social exclusion, or is destructive. In some rare cases, it can be dangerous.
Modifying The Environment To Help With Behaviour
Different environments can trigger different behaviours. An environment can be a physical space a room at home, a supermarket, a park, a relatives house etc or it can be whats in that space people, noise, lights, animals, toys etc.
Even when an environment doesnt cause a behaviour, it can still be contributing to its occurrence.
Once you understand why a behaviour of concern is happening, you can look at the environment it occurs in, and make adjustments to that environment.
This may involve:
- Moving items, such as putting food or drink where its easy to reach.
- Using a visual schedule so a person knows what is going to happen, for how long, and in what order.
- Modifying a task, or providing adjustments, so that it is achievable.
- Using better and simpler communication to ensure understanding.
- Showing what the expected behaviours are, such as lining up at the supermarket checkout or putting your hand up to ask a question.
- Making sure they can easily access sensory tools such as ear defenders, sunglasses, moven sit cushions etc.
- Changing the time of day that you go to that environment, such as a quieter time to go shopping, or when the line is not as long.
- Changing an everyday item, such as a hairbrush, toothbrush, or wearing clothes without tags.
- Engaging with a person and providing attention.
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Embedding Disliked Tasks In Enjoyable Tasks
Embedding allows the individual to intersperse complex or disliked tasks among easy and preferred ones this enhances motivation and increases the opportunity for personal and behavioral success.
For instance, you can embed three challenging math problems in a set of ten or have someone take two or three bites of a preferred food for each taste of a new food. This way, the individual feels successful and motivated to try new things.
Providing Frequent Choices Within A Task
Providing options surrounding a particular task allows an individual to become an active participant in a situation this increases motivation and enhances self-control as they can choose for themselves and are no longer a bystander receiving instructions about what to do. Give choices whenever possible.
For example, although a child must do homework during homework time, you can offer choices about whether to do homework at their desk or at the kitchen table, with mom or dad, with a pen or pencil, etc. For non-verbal individuals, picture boards are helpful tools for providing visual choices.
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Difficulty Responding To Kindness
Autistic children may also have a tough time managing their responses to adult or peer “kindness.” The following examples may sound familiar for parents of autistic children:
- Grandparent comes to visit. They see their autistic grandchild, open their arms, and ask for a big hug. The grandchild runs in the opposite direction at top speed. Grandparent follows them and gives them that hug, only to be rewarded with a kick in the shins.
- Grandparent gives their autistic grandchild a gift, and their grandchild says, at an age when they should know better, “I don’t like this! I wanted a ___!”
- A peer from school agrees to a play date and finds themselves ignored for several hours while the autistic child plays alone. Or the guest may spend two hours being told, “Don’t touch that!”
All of these behaviors can lead to hurt or even angry feelings. Yet all are typical of autism, and, in most cases, result from sensory, communication, or behavioral challenges that are common for those who have autism.
Walk Away And Get To A Safe Place
Sometimes the mere presence of another person sets off the person with autism. If you can safely leave the person where he is, do so. Make sure you have access to a phone so you can call for help if needed. Go to a bathroom or bedroom where you can lock the door but still hear what is going on. Bring a book about non-violent crisis intervention and read it. Listen for signs of calming. Do not come out immediately, but after five minutes of calm, step out and see what the situation is.
If all is well, go about your business as if nothing unusual had happened. This is not the time for talking about what happened, for setting consequences, for yelling at the person, or anything else but continued calming. When the person is truly calm you can discuss how the incident could have been avoided – but not now. It is very important for you to remain calm even if you are scared to death inside. There will be time for falling apart later.
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Physiological Reasons For Headbanging In Autistic Children
There are also some physiological aspects of autism and self-harm. Stephen M. Edelson, PhD, has some theories regarding autism and headbanging. He suggested physiological reasons autistic children headbang including biochemical and genetic factors. He says that research has found that neurotransmitter levels may have a link to headbanging and other self-injurious behaviors.
Edelson writes, Beta-endorphins are endogenous opiate-like substances in the brain, and self-injury may increase the production and/or the release of endorphins. As a result, the individual experiences an anesthesia-like effect and, ostensibly, he/she does not feel any pain while engaging in the behavior . Furthermore, the release of endorphins may provide the individual with a euphoric-like feeling.
While Edelson admits that researchers and medical professionals have not reached a clear consensus on whether dietary or even pharmaceutical interventions can address autism and headbanging, he recommends exploring these options with your childs pediatrician.
Some Children Thrive When Given Structured Hands
Many children I have worked with or have observed, did very well when given a hands-on/visual activity. Examples include playing a computer game, sorting objects by color or object type completing a puzzle, constructing a model car, tracing or coloring in a picture, etc. As another example, some teachers of children with autism teach academic skills through sorting tasks. For instance, an activity about learning colors would require the child to put all the yellow chips in a yellow cup, all the blue chips in a blue cup, etc. Keeping a child focused with an activity they do well at is a great way to encourage calm behavior. However, if the child is feeling overwhelmed or frustrated from the activity, allow a break or a change in the task.
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Dont Wait For A Diagnosis
As the parent of a child with ASD or related developmental delays, the best thing you can do is to start treatment right away. Seek help as soon as you suspect somethings wrong. Dont wait to see if your child will catch up later or outgrow the problem. Dont even wait for an official diagnosis. The earlier children with autism spectrum disorder get help, the greater their chance of treatment success. Early intervention is the most effective way to speed up your childs development and reduce the symptoms of autism over the lifespan.
When your child has autism
Learn about autism. The more you know about autism spectrum disorder, the better equipped youll be to make informed decisions for your child. Educate yourself about the treatment options, ask questions, and participate in all treatment decisions.
Become an expert on your child. Figure out what triggers your kids challenging or disruptive behaviors and what elicits a positive response. What does your child find stressful or frightening? Calming? Uncomfortable? Enjoyable? If you understand what affects your child, youll be better at troubleshooting problems and preventing or modifying situations that cause difficulties.
Dont give up. Its impossible to predict the course of autism spectrum disorder. Dont jump to conclusions about what life is going to be like for your child. Like everyone else, people with autism have an entire lifetime to grow and develop their abilities.
Aggression In Children With Autism How To Manage Aggressive Behavior
Aggressive behaviors are common in children with autism spectrum disorder . Many parents who have a child with autism can relate to being concerned over their childs challenging behaviors especially when those behaviors are hurtful toward others or to the child themselves. This can be an unpleasant experience for the child, for their parents, or for anyone else. For the child who is displaying aggression, this type of behavior can be frightening, exhausting, confusing, and stressful. The behavior can also lead the child to miss out on the chance to learn valuable life skills and alternative behaviors. Aggression that isnt addressed in an effective and helpful manner can lead to more such behavior in the future. In this article, we will discuss aggression in children with autism spectrum disorder and how parents can manage it more effectively.
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Consider Medical And Biological Issues Related To Your Childs Aggression
Another thing to consider when trying to identify the cause of your childs aggressive behavior is that medical issues can contribute to aggressive behavior. Sometimes, when children with autism experience illness, such as an ear infection or a headache or a fever, or have ongoing medical conditions, such as diabetes, they engage in aggressive behaviors. This could be due to many reasons – from being uncomfortable and not having another way to express themselves to being in pain, and so on.
Also, consider your childs basic needs. When a child is tired, hungry, or uncomfortable, they may engage in more aggressive behaviors than otherwise.
Think about whether this could be influencing your childs behavior. Does your child have a regular sleep schedule? Do they struggle staying asleep? Do they have a routine for meals and snacks? Do they eat a well-balanced diet? Do they seem to get stressed or overwhelmed when they are too hot or too cold or when they are wearing certain textured clothing? Answers to these could be critical when trying to manage your childs aggressive behavior.