Therapy that Works.
ThinkingPerson'sGuidetoAutism (TPGA) is a resource that aims to provide a "reliable, centralized and accessible" space for autism parents, children, adults, professionals etc. and provides them with written pieces, news and updates. The goal of the site is to give autism community members a "positive yet realistic" attitude and to allow them to admire autistic people's strengths as well as offer the appropriate support when it is needed. Shannon Des Roches Rosa, a writer for TPGA, submitted a piece to the website titled, "Which Therapies Actually Help Autistic Children" to provide a personal perspective on the types of "treatment" and support that actually worked for her autistic child and what may work for others. Des Roches Rosa shares about her own son who at around two years old was talking more than the other autistic children in his speech group, however, by age four, her son was only occasionally talking while the other children were speaking non-stop. As the parents of that particular speech group began to compare and discuss the different/similar therapies that the children were receiving, Des Roches Rosa began to realize that their difference in speech ability were due to their individual autistic paths than with their specific therapies or programs. Autistic traits are varied, so a difference in patterns among several autistic children who are the same age is fairly normal. Des Roches Rosa notes that some children she observed were placed on extreme diets or treatment such as chelation, which consists of injecting a chemical into the autistic child's body to remove certain metals from the blood, developed despite rather than because of those treatments. She also notes that treatments like ABA therapy are not entirely helpful as they aim to condition autistic children to behave in ways that are not consistent with autistic neurology. Instead, she feels that autistic children need supports that allow them gain useful skills, adapt to various circumstances as well as enable them to self-advocate when adapting is not possible. Thus eliciting the question so, what are good therapies for autistic kids? The short answer is that all autistic kids develop at different paces and stages, so there are not hard and fast rules when it comes to the type of therapy that your child may need. A diverse population such as that of "autistic children" could not possibly all benefit and flourish with just one type of therapeutic intervention. Des Roches Rosa encourages parents to really think about the type of therapy or intervention that they wish to use for their child and while individual needs are important to consider, it is also wise to try to and incorporate the child's personality, interests, tolerances and abilities when making that decision. It is also beneficial to ensure that the child has enough time to reset and process. Des Roches Rosa included a thought from Emily Paige Ballou who is another writer for TPGA. Ballou says that "downtime doesn't just allow for restoration, it's when our brains turn short-term skill into deep knowledge." The first thing to assess before deciding on therapy or intervention, according to Des Roches Rosa, is the child's communication profile. Kids with none or limited speech ability likely need Assistive and Augmentative Communication options. But like most things, not all of those options are high-quality or the follow the same language or motor skills philosophies. So, doing adequate research as well as working with an expert is going to be beneficial when trying to find the best fit for your child. After your child's communication strengths and weaknesses have been assessed, it is then time to determine how to best help them learn and interact in the world. While it is imperative that children learn these skills, the journey there needs to be individualized and the standard that the child is expected to reach should be applicable to their particular autism diagnosis, not to the standard of a child who does not have autism. Eye contact is a great example of a communication skill that is more or less a societal expectation, but it extremely difficult and uncomfortable for those with autism; talking and paying attention while maintaining eye contact is not a standard they should be expected to meet. Des Roches Rosa is not a huge fan of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and actually believes that this form of therapy should be avoided. She says this because of ABA's history of abusive techniques and expected compliance. Autistic adults have begun speaking out about their negative experiences with ABA as children and the media is now beginning to deliver the message that ABA should not be the "gold standard" for autistic children any more. Recent research has also indicated that the non-generalized repetitive learning approach that is used in ABA treatment may actually be restricting an autistic child's learning process. ABA has a history of misunderstanding common autistic behaviors and learning styles instead of helping them, these scenarios often create more problems both physically and communicatively. Occupational Therapy (OT) is a type of therapy that is widely accepted, often recommended and generally beneficial to children with autism. Especially when it comes to motor issues, strength profiles, or poor tone in autistic children. Another great therapy approach comes with the help of a speech language pathologist (SLP), especially if the child struggles with communication. Feeding therapy or Nutritional Consultations can also be beneficial as long as the child's food aversions are well respected and if the approach of the practitioner is respectful and non-coercive of the child. Adaptive Physical Education (APE) is another option because it could help your child maintain their overall health while also learning self-regulation. When choosing the right approach(es) for your child, keep in mind, that not all of these may be offered locally to you and can be quite expensive. If acquiring any or all of the therapies you want for your child is not possible at the moment, you are capable of improving or maintaining the environment around your child. As a parent, your attitudes, approaches, and overall home life should be understanding based as this ultimately shows your child that you love them for who they are and support them whether they are on the same developmental path as their nuerotypical peers or not.