Autism is a disorder of brain development which mainly affects social behaviors and communication development. Therapists working with children who are on the autism spectrum of disorders often use behavior therapy as a means of treatment. The right behavior therapy for each individual with autism may include one or more of the following techniques.
Applied Behavior Analysis
One type of behavior therapy for children with autism is applied behavior analysis (ABA). ABA is used to help children succeed at reaching positive goals and distinguish negative behaviors. Optimally, a trained therapist would work one-on-one for 40 or more hours per week with a child when using ABA. First, the child would be observed, and then, goals would be made. To carry out the program, a therapist would reward the behaviors that she wants the child to achieve while ignoring undesirable ones. It helps if a parent or caregiver learns ABA so a therapist does not need to spend as much time with the child and so the child can participate in real social situations.
Relationship Development Intervention
Another option for behavior therapy is relationship development intervention (RDI). This relatively new behavior therapy focuses on social behaviors of the autistic child. The parents are more involved than a therapist when using RDI. After initial assessments are made by a professional, goals are set for the child. The parents attend an intensive workshop or watch a five-hour video to help them learn how to carry out the therapy. In addition, parents submit videos of themselves with the child to get feedback from the professionals who can give them advice for further treatments. RDI appears to work best when children are young, but there is hope for older children as well.
Sensory Integration Therapy
A third behavioral therapy is sensory integration therapy. This type of therapy works to improve a child’s sensitivities to sensory stimuli that may be overwhelming to the child. Loud noises, bright lights, and touches may all be addressed. A therapist using this type of therapy will introduce the child to increasingly higher levels of the stimuli being worked on. While the therapist does need to push the child’s limits, there is no force involved. Sensory integration therapy does not require a lot of time per session and positive results usually occur relatively quickly if this is going to work.
A fourth behavior therapy that is important for individuals with autism is communication interventions. There are a number of different models used, but all focus on a core deficit in many with autism: the lack of effective communication. Without effective communication, you will often see undesired behaviors out of frustration and misunderstandings about the situations. Teaching communication skills, whether they are verbal or by use assistant devices such as iPads, helps an individual express his needs and desires. Allowing this to happen in social situations makes it more meaningful to the child. Social learning can happen through modeling, peer tutoring, games, and many others.
Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children
The TEACCH model is used to help children with autism achieve positive results with their social and maladaptive behaviors. It uses an environment that is structured and organized at all times. In addition, activities are predictably sequenced and visually organized to enhance the environment for the child. Children proceed to practice activities and skills in a specific fashion. Outcomes are more positive when the parents are taught to use a similar method at home.
Related Resource: Top 10 Best Applied Behavior Analysis Online Programs
Overall, behavior therapy for individuals with autism varies widely among therapists. Different types of therapies work better for each child and finding the right protocol for each child is the key to success.