A number of therapies can help people with autism improve their abilities and reduce their symptoms. Starting therapy early - preschool or beforehand, improves your child’s chance of success but it’s never too late to start.
ABA: Applied Behavioural Analysis
Applied Behavioural Analysis - ABA is a treatment methodology that was pioneered by Dr. Ivar Lovaas and is based on theories of operant conditioning.
ABA uses different procedures to teach new skills to children by breaking down tasks into small teachable steps that children can learn more easily. ABA uses a reward system to motivate and reinforce children while they are learning new skills and behaviours. For example, to teach a child to respond to his name, the therapist will say the child’s name and wait a designated amount of time for the child to respond. If the child responds, the therapist rewards him with a special treat, such as a favourite food or toy.
The theory is that rewarded behaviour will be repeated. When ﬁrst learning a new behaviour, a child is rewarded for just trying. A child is given many opportunities during an ABA session to demonstrate the correct behaviour. ABA regards repetition as critical for the brain to process new behaviours and skills.
ABA programs incorporate both therapist-directed and child directed interventions. For example, if a child were learning his colours in a therapist-directed setting, the therapist would hold up a blue card and ask, “What colour is this?” prompting the child to answer, “Blue.” If a child were learning his colours in a child-directed sequence, the therapist would put an array of M&Ms on the table, prompting the child to reach for one, whereupon the therapist would ask, “What colour is it?” ABA strives to make learning fun and enjoyable for the child by offering lots of positive reinforcement and positive interactions.
ABA also teaches play, social, communication, and relationship-building skills through peer modelling (incorporating other children in the session), activity schedules (visual sequences that teach everyday activities such as brushing teeth to more complex skills such as making friends), and inclusion support (a SNA who accompanies the child) in the classroom.
ABA progress is frequently measured, recorded in written reports, and reviewed so that treatment can be updated and individualised to meet a child’s speciﬁc needs.
This is a science that is applied to improve socially significant behaviour. It uses positive reinforcement as a tool to build skills, reduce behaviour that is challenging and encourages positive learning. It aims to make meaningful improvements in behaviour and can show how those improvements came about, through the collection, graphing and analysis of data.
PECS: Picture Exchange Communication System
The Picture Exchange Communication System, or PECS, allows people with little or no communication abilities to communicate using pictures. People using PECS are taught to approach another person and give them a picture of a desired item in exchange for that item. By doing so, the person is able to initiate communication. A child or adult with autism can use PECS to communicate a request, a thought, or anything that can reasonably be displayed or symbolized on a picture card. PECS works well in the home or in the classroom and when transitioning from one place to another. Advanced language concepts can also be taught using PECS. It uses positive reinforcement and prompting strategies to teach the children how to use the system independently.
TEACCH: Treatment and Education of Autistic and Community Related Handicapped Children
It is a teaching method that manipulates the environment to encourage learning and develop independent skills. TEACCH is centred on five basic principles. First, physical structure refers to individual’s immediate surroundings. Daily activities, such as playing and eating, work best when they are clearly defined by physical boundaries. Second, having a consistent schedule is possible through various mediums, such as drawings and photographs. Third, the work system establishes expectations and activity measurements that promote independence. Ideal work systems will communicate objectives with minimum written instructions. Fourth, routine is essential because the most important functional support for autistic individuals is consistency. Fifth, visual structure involves visually-based cues for reminders and instruction.
This is a sign system used by those with learning and communication difficulties. It allows them to see as well as hear what is being communicated as speech is always used in conjunction with the signs. It can help those who have limited and unclear
speech to communicate with others. It encourages eye-contact and can give children confidence to try new words.
Social stories are an easy and effective way of teaching appropriate behaviours to children with special needs, by using written or visual cues that help guide children who struggle to navigate unfamiliar social situations, whether on the playground, at the doctor’s office, or even in the classroom. The applications of social stories are limitless and can be catered to your child’s comprehension and needs. Social stories are typically broken down into several steps with descriptive words and terms that best communicate the social situation. The information is given in a reassuring manner that is easily understood by the reader.
These activities help children with autism get better at everyday tasks, like learning to button a shirt or hold a fork properly. But it can involve anything related to school, work or play. The focus depends on the child’s needs and goals.
This helps children with speaking, as well as communicating and interacting with others. It can involve non-verbal skills, like making eye contact, taking turns in a conversation, and using and understanding gestures. It might also teach kids to express themselves using picture symbols, sign language, or computers.