Developmental Therapy for Autism. How does it benefit an Autistic child?

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What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a condition associated with brain development that influences how an individual perceives and socializes with others, affecting social interaction and communication. The disorder also includes repetitive patterns of behaviour. The term “Spectrum” in Autism Spectrum Disorder denotes a wide variety of symptoms and severity.

ASD begins in infancy and eventually causes problems functioning in society i.e. in school and at work. For example, over and over again a child with ASD may show symptoms within the first year. Some of the conditions that include ASD are Autistic Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder not otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms? The symptoms are mentioned based on developmental months:
Developmental Red Flags (1 to 3 months)

  • Doesn’t seem to respond to loud noise
  • Doesn’t smile at the sound of voice by 2 months
  • Doesn’t hold objects by 3 months
  • Unable to support head well at 3 months
  • Has trouble moving eyes altogether directions

Development Red Flags (4 to 7 months)
  • Seems very stiff, tight muscles
  • Seems very floppy
  • Doesn’t rollover
  • Has difficulty getting objects to mouth
  • Doesn’t follow objects with both eyes

Development Red Flags (8 To 12 Month)
  • Unable crawl
  • Says no single words
  • Doesn’t sit steadily by 10 months
  • Does not babble by 9 months

Developmental Red Flags (12 To 24 Months)
  • Cannot walk by 18 months
  • Doesn’t speak a minimum of 15 words by 18 months
  • Does not imitate action or words by 24 months
  • Doesn’t follow simple one-step instructions.

Developmental Red Flag (24-36 Months)
  • Frequent falling and difficulty with stairs
  • Inability to create a tower consisting 4 blocks
  • Difficulty manipulating small objects
  • No involvement in pretend play
  • Minimal interest in other children

Developmental Red Flags (3 To 4 Years)
  • Cannot hold a crayon using thumb and finger
  • Has difficulty scribbling
  • Doesn’t engage in fantasy play
  • Resists dressing, sleeping, using the toilet
  • Doesn’t use “me” or “you” appropriately

Also read, https://mpowerminds.com/blog/What-does-a-Developmental-Therapist-do-for-toddlers-Where-to-find-one

How and When Autism Screening is Administered?

Autism screening is typically administered by a paediatrician during a routine check-up or by a certified psychologist when the parents visit a medical setup with concerns regarding Developmental Delays. A doctor or psychologist observes the child or asks parents questions about behaviours at home and while interacting with other children on the playground. The aim of an autism screening is to detect common early signs of autism as mentioned above as per age-appropriate.

Some of the Screening Tests/Checklist administered by Psychologist to diagnose Autism are:
  • Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS)
  • Gilliam Autism Rating Scale (GARS)
  • Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS)
  • Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R)
  • Indian Scale for Assessment for Autism (ISAA)

There are compelling reasons to attain a formal diagnosis for a particular child- Firstly, therapists can plan accordingly and specific goals could be targeted within a time limit, Secondly, there would be uniqueness planned to implement the intervention in achieving the goals. Furthermore, with formal assessment comorbidities could be noted such as Sensory Processing Disorder, Fragile X, Intellectual Disability, and Rett’s Syndromes. Lastly, it could determine whether the child is suitable for Occupational, Speech, Remedial or Behavioural Therapy.

An Autism diagnosis is usually based on the criteria described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM-5) which is published by The American Psychiatric Association and used by most healthcare professionals.

Intervention and Treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder and its benefits.

There is no treatment shown to cure ASD, but several interventions have been developed and studied. The intervention specifies the Needs of the child, Identifies the triggers, enhances functionality in day-to-day life, supports children with ASD to manage Activities of Daily Living, and maximizes the capability of the child to serve and share in the community.

The treatment plans are generally Multi-Disciplinary that involve Parents, Caregivers, Special Educators, Occupational, Speech Therapists, and Psychologists.

Behavioural intervention strategies have focused on social communication and skill development, particularly at a young age when the kid would naturally be gaining these skills. For some toddlers with ASD, Occupational and Speech therapy may be helpful when social skills training and medication is provided.

The best treatment or intervention can vary counting on an individual’s age, strengths, challenges, and differences.

Also, it’s relevant to involve regular medical and dental exams should be part of a child’s treatment plan. Often it is hard to tell if a child’s behaviour is related to ASD or is caused by a separate health condition. For example, headbanging could be one of the signs of ASD, or it could be a symptom of having headaches. In such cases, a thorough physical examination is needed.

Types of Therapies and Their Advantages:

There are numerous treatments available. Each of them has their own benefits as mentioned below:

  • Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA):
    A notable treatment approach for people with ASD is named ABA. It has been widely accepted among healthcare professionals and used in many schools and medical clinics. ABA encourages positive behaviours and dejects negative behaviours to enhance various skills. In this treatment, regular child’s progress is tracked and measured.
  • Floor Time:
    It focuses on emotional and relational development on how the kid deals with sights, sounds, and smells.
  • Play Therapy:
    Mostly a child with autism will play differently than other kids do. It is likely that they concentrate on parts of a toy (like wheels) rather than the complete toy. They don’t pretend to play like other kids do. And they might not want to play with others. Play can help children with autism to learn and connect with other people.

    Play therapy can improve their social, emotional skills, help them to think in several ways, increase their linguistic or communication skills and expand the ways they play with toys and relate to other people.
  • Treatment and Education of Autism and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH):
    It uses visual clues to teach skills. For example, picture cards can help teach a child how to get dressed by breaking details down into smaller steps.
  • Occupational Therapy:
    This intervention helps the person to live as independently as possible. Skills such as dressing, eating, bathing and relating to people are worked upon.
  • Social Skills Training:
    Teaches children with ASD skills they need to interact with others, including conversation and problem-solving skills.
  • Speech Therapy:
    This helps to improve a person's communication skills. Some people can learn verbal communication skills. While others use gestures or picture boards that are more realistic.

    In the nutshell, it is recommended that Families, Educators, Psychologists, Therapists, and Paediatricians track the child’s progress over time through intervention. And regular Assessments must be conducted that help in guiding treatment choices throughout the lifetime.

Also read, https://mpowerminds.com/blog/How-do-I-know-that-my-child-needs-speech-therapy-Find-the-best-speech-therapist-in-Kolkata

https://mpowerminds.com/blog/Famous-personalities-who-didnt-let-the-speech-issue-come-in-their-way-of-success-Find-the-best-speech-therapist-in-Kolkata

If you think your child needs developmental therapy like occupational therapy or speech therapy, please seek help immediately.

Find a psychiatrist or psychologist nearest to you-
https://mpowerminds.com/contact

Author
Zainab Shabbir Dhariwala
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