As a parent, caretaker, or family member of someone who falls on the autism spectrum, you may often question whether you’re doing enough to help them.

You may wonder if there are interventions and treatments that work more effectively than others, if you’re providing the best and most meaningful care, and whether everything you’re trying is even in the right ballpark for your situation.

These are all perfectly relevant questions and concerns. Caring for someone with autism can take a lot of patience, a variety of therapies, and an open mind to new approaches. However, there are some therapies that have proven more useful and effective than others.

Here are some of the most effective therapies for autism intervention and information on where to get help. Their inclusion here is only for your edification; it is not an indication of endorsement of any specific therapy or program by the Sarah Dooley Center for Autism.

Occupational Therapy For Autism

This form of therapy is intended to help impart stronger social skills in environments like the home and classroom. Autism may present a range of behavioral problems and social development issues, including outbursts, inappropriate touching and other “personal space” issues, or a range of other disruptive or harmful behaviors.

Occupational therapy offers tools to help foster improved behaviors and social skills. Occupational therapists typically use a range of activities to help instill better social coping strategies, often leading to improved outcomes and greater success in the long term.

Speech Therapy For Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) may present with a distinct lack of verbal skills and other communication proficiencies. This difficulty with communication can lead to feelings of isolation, depression, and reduced self-confidence. Social interactions can be awkward, or even downright frustrating and embarrassing.

Speech therapy can help someone with ASD learn to communicate more effectively with others, while also developing the necessary skills to make their wants and needs easier to understand, both to family members and caregivers, and those outside their immediate circle.

Speech therapy can help those with autism better understand both verbal and nonverbal communication cues, such as body language and voice inflection. With the tools to communicate more effectively, autistic individuals can accomplish much more and feel stronger and more independent in social and other interactions.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy

ABA therapy focuses on modifying behavior through learning principles like positive reinforcement. This principle relies on the idea that when a behavior is rewarded with positive attention or other positive outcomes, the repetition of the behavior becomes more likely.

Behavioral analysis is a decades-old area of research wherein many techniques for modifying poor behavior and reinforcing positive behavior have been developed. ABA helps emphasize the behaviors that are most conducive to learning and succeeding, while de-emphasizing those that are disruptive or not conducive to the learning process.

Since the 1960s, behavioral analysts have been working with both children and adults on the autism spectrum to develop worthwhile, helpful strategies that can now be applied no matter the age of the individual or their developmental status.

ABA therapy may consist of one-on-one interactions or group sessions, or a combination of both. They can range in focus from typical daily situations, such as how to behave at the dinner table, to more complex exchanges that may take place in the classroom or on the playground.

Social Skill-Building Therapy

For some people, social skills are second nature. It’s easy to make eye contact, understand the emotions being presented by your peers, and follow the conversation when you’re hanging out in a group. Those same interactions can be cripplingly difficult for someone on the autism spectrum.

Social skill-building can help assuage some of the social skill issues of those who live with autism, and this type of therapy can provide some of the basic tools for good social interactions.

This type of therapy is typically presented as a class, where social skills can be learned and practiced in a safe, reassuring environment. Once the skills have been learned, they can then be tested with a group of peers where the individual feels safe and accepted. This helps to build confidence in those skills, while learning how to employ them in a group situation.

Finding Good Options for Therapy

These different therapies are offered by a range of organizations in the Richmond area, with some of the options available at the Sarah Dooley Center for Autism. Other options for getting help include (but are not limited to):

  • Commonwealth Autism – Offering a transdisciplinary autism assessment clinic, the Founders Center, Richmond House, and other helpful services, Commonwealth Autism works to improve the lives of those with autism in Richmond, Virginia and the surrounding area.
  • Autism Society Central Virginia – With a robust resource directory and more than three decades of non-profit work in the field of autism and autism education, ASCV is an excellent option for finding the services you need in Central Virginia.

When searching for effective therapies, it’s important to remember that no two individuals will exhibit exactly the same results for the same therapy, no matter how well and diligently applied.

Some therapies work better for one group, while others prove more useful to another group, and yet different therapies are more effective for still another.

The types of therapy listed above can be helpful for anyone living on the spectrum. The earlier they’re introduced, the better the expected long-term outcomes. However, even if these therapies aren’t introduced in early to mid-childhood, they can still be very helpful, regardless of age.

For more information on resources for children and adults with autism, contact the Sarah Dooley Center for Autism at 804-521-5571.

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