Health: A Review of Various Autism Therapies

Autism therapies are helpful in increasing function and quality of life for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Each therapy is usually tailored to the specific individual and their needs. Because of this, one type of therapy is not suitable for everyone and there are a wide variety of therapies available.

Occupational Therapy

An occupational therapist can tailor a combination of strategies to help a child in how they respond to individuals, situations, and their environment. The therapist may engage the child in physical, developmental or play activities as well as help them to develop adaptive strategies.

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Speech Therapy

If a child is having trouble communicating, speech therapy may be beneficial. It can help with language development as well as speech and social communication. A child can learn verbal as well as non-verbal cues and responses, including facial expressions, through this type of therapy.

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Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

This type of therapy focuses on the psychology of how we learn and may include aspects such as positive reinforcement of wanted behaviors along with extinction of problematic behaviors. Via a variety of methods, a child can be taught new skills.

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Social Skills Classes

Both adults and children with autism can benefit from social skills classes. The courses teach methods and understanding pertaining to communication, engagement, empathy, and social skills. This helps the student to gain more confidence socially and interact with peers and the community more easily and with higher levels of success.

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Hippotherapy

Horse riding can help children with autism increase and develop speech and motor skills. It can also aid in emotional and sensory development via the experience of bonding with and riding the horses. These skills can reach into other aspects of life and social development.

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Gluten Free/Casein Free (GFCF) Diets

A GFCF diet is a strict elimination diet that removes gluten as well as milk products. Many people believe that this diet is beneficial because the children may be allergic or highly sensitive to some or all of these ingredients. It is thought that the allergy or sensitivity may make symptoms of autism worse.

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Psychologist / Psychiatrist Sessions

Seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist can be beneficial in a variety of ways. If medication is needed, a psychiatrist should be able to prescribe it. If an individual needs a treatment plan including other types of therapy or support, it is often a psychologist who will suggest and oversee the various aspects of this. Talk therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, may also be useful in many cases.

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Floor Time

Floor time therapy encourages parents to get down to their child’s level (quite literally, near the floor) and to play and engage with the child in ways that they understand and are capable of. This helps with interest in the world, self-regulation, communication, and emotional development.  

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Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)

With this parent-led type of therapy, parents are taught how to guide their children through cognitive milestones. Positive reinforcement is used to help a child with their social skills, self-awareness, and adaptability. Eventually, as a part of the process, the child progresses to group interactions and play with peers.

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Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

This is a type of early nonverbal symbolic communication training. The process includes prompting, cuing, and modeling to help with development in aspects of communication. This is not directly speech related.

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Swimming / Aqua Therapy

Aqua therapy may help with sensory processing and modulation. It can help children to improve their sensory-processing skills in a comfortable environment. Physical activities and new experiences are important in helping children with autism to strengthen their sensory-processing skills.

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Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT)

This is a play based and child-initiated form of therapy. It focuses on self-management skills, multiple-cue responses, and motivation. It includes natural reinforcement, in which a child is rewarded with what they are working towards.

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Music Therapy

Music can stimulate both hemispheres of our brain, which may make it easier to learn relationship building skills and to work on self-awareness. This is done through interacting with the instrument, and then by interacting with others through the instrument and music.

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Auditory Integration Training (AIT)

This type of therapy is intended to reduce a child’s sensitivity to sound as well as problems with processing sounds. It is done in a series of short 30-minute sessions in which the child will listen to increasingly complex music via headphones.

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Vitamin Therapy

Mega-vitamins and nutritional supplements are often used to treat children with ASD due to the belief that they may be deficient in some nutrients because of restricted food choices or health conditions.

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Educational Programs

Children with autism may benefit from individualized learning plans that take their own unique needs into account in order to meet academic benchmarks.

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