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  • Writer's pictureHannah's Hope

Therapy Options

Kisha Gulley started her blog The Kisha Project as a personal outlet to help her cope with postpartum depression but it has grown into a platform that serves to connect mothers to both mental health and parenting resources. In January she posted an article on her blog titled "What are some autism therapy options?" in which she provides some references for parents to help them decipher between the available services and choose what they want to try after they receive an autism diagnosis for their child. Gulley recognizes that receiving that diagnosis can be overwhelming at first and trying to sift through resources and information within the autism community can be exhausting. The first thing she addresses is whether autism can be cured with therapy. The answer to that is no, there is no one cure for autism. However, finding the right therapy for your child will not only help them, but it will also help you and your family cope with and adapt to these new sets of challenges. One approach to therapy services can be observed in Developmental Preschool, which is not technically a classified therapy option, but it can be helpful. Gulley's son goes to an inclusive preschool, meaning that it serves typically developing children and children who need specialized instruction from ages three to five. In her son's classroom, there is a special education teacher and two assistants. The school also has an on-site speech language pathologist, occupational therapist, and physical therapist. A school of this kind is important as it is equipped to teach both sets of students while improving social interaction skills, which for autistic children, learning how to appropriately connect and interact with nuerotypical children can be very beneficial for later in life. While it is great that the school that Gulley's son attends has access to an occupational therapist, they also take him to appointments with one outside of school. Occupational therapists help children learn basic life skills, like writing, putting on clothes, playing, etc. These professionals will use structured play therapies, like floortime, which is used to build the child's intellectual, emotional, and physical skills. Sensory integration interventions may also be used to help with sensory processing issues and teach them how to better adjust to different people and environments. Another type of therapy that Gulley mentions is speech therapy. This is a type of treatment that can be used for children with autism to address any language and communication challenges. Some children with autism may be saying fewer words than their typically developing peers or their peers with autism and their smaller vocabulary and difficulty may be the cause of frequent meltdowns as the child cannot express their needs or wants. In this case, it is important to remember that each child is different and their developmental journey may be different from others. Speech therapy can close that gap by working with the child to form word combinations and/or learn sign language and incorporate that into their home to help them communicate with parents, siblings, teachers, etc. Another form of therapy is applied behavioral analysis (ABA) which is "based on the science of learning and behavior." Simply put, this process is used to increase positive behavior, thus decreasing negative behavior. Like most other forms of therapy, your child will be put through an assessment first and then a plan will be created, but typically, most treatment centers provide about thirty-five hours a week in therapy. During therapy, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) will be present to assess your child's progress, goals, and treatment. ABA has received some feedback throughout the autistic parent community that resulted in controversy about the process for treatment, so Gulley suggests doing your own research about it and listen to your child to decide what is best for them. Lastly, it is noted in this blog post that there are quite a few therapy options available, and really there is not one that is "the best." In fact, it is common for parents to try several different options and use a combination of therapies to serve their child. The most important takeaway from Gulley's piece is to receive early intervention for your child. find a solid support system, if you don't already have one, and try whatever you need in terms of therapy to get your child the resources they need. The presence of treatment in your child's life and your family's lives is constant and it will likely never go away, so be sure that in every choice you make, you are doing the best thing for your child and their needs as well as your family's.

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