Autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or Autism, is a developmental disorder, characterized by impaired communication and behavior. Autism is considered a “development disorder” as it is generally diagnosed during childhood, specifically during first two years of development. However, people may experience it at any age.

As suggested by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), autism may cause:

  • Difficulty in interaction and communication
  • Repetitive behavior and restricted interests
  • Significant impairment in person’s ability to perform properly at work, in school and other walks of life

Autism can be a lifelong disorder. But, the good news is, a person can manage the symptoms and improve function with proper treatment and training.

Experts recommend screening of all children for autism for timely diagnosis, if symptoms are reported.

Talking about treatments, we, at Athena Behavioral Health, offer evidence-based treatment programs to help people with autism improve their quality of life. In case of children, interventions can be introduced before or during preschool for better outcome.

Remember, you are never late for treatment of autism, but, earlier it is, the better.

Treatment and Therapies for Autism

Treatment of autism varies from person to person. The most commonly used therapies for autism include: 

Play Therapy

Children struggling with autism often have a different way of playing or doing things. As they play, they tend to focus more on the parts of a toy (like wheels), whereas most children of their age usually focus on the whole toy. Children with autism may not want to play with others, but playing is the best way to help express themselves and connect with others including children and adults.

Therefore, our therapists use plays like ‘floortime’ and others to engage children and help them improve their social and emotional skills. Through their favorite toys, the therapists give them a medium to express themselves, which, in turn, improve their language or communication skills.

We can help your child, who is showing signs of autism, improve his or her performance at school and in social level with the following therapies:

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is recommended to children having autism helping them perform their routine activities efficiently. It includes learning tasks such as how to button a shirt or use a spoon. It also comprises academic activities like using a pencil in the right manner or packing a school bag etc.

In order to empower children to achieve their desired goals, our occupational therapists work in tandem with parents, teachers, and other professionals to set specific goals for the individual struggling with autism. These goals may involve improving their social interaction and communication, academic performance, or other interpersonal skills.

Occupational therapists work in two ways:

  • Evaluation
  • Therapy

Occupational therapy may combine a variety of ideas, including:

Speech Therapy

People with autism face difficulties related to speech as well as nonverbal communication. They also struggle with social interaction. That’s where speech therapy plays a significant role. Speech therapy forms the central part of our treatment program for autism, which helps in improving communication and interaction skills both, in children and adults.

Role of Speech Therapy in Treating Autism

Our speech therapists specialize in treating disorders related to language and speech. The therapy begins immediately once autism is diagnosed.

The therapy may begin by involving people battling autism in the following activities:

  • Signing or typing
  • Electronic “talkers”
  • Improving speech articulation by massaging or exercising lips or facial muscles
  • Using pictures instead of words to improve their communication skills
  • Practicing rhythm and flow of sentences through songs
Prime Goals of Speech Therapy

With speech therapy, our therapies focus on enabling the individuals with autism to:

  • Acknowledge verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Start communication without prompting
  • Exchange ideas
  • Articulate words well
  • Achieve self-control
  • Communicate both verbally and nonverbally
  • Know and understand the use of different words/terms at specific times, such as greeting someone
  • To develop relationships through effective communication
  • Enjoy playing, communication and mutual interaction
Right Time to Begin Speech Therapy for Autism

It is better to begin speech therapy at the earliest. Autism starts to show symptoms before age three, but language problems can be noticed by the time child is 18 months. Early detection and treatment increase the chances of better improvement in communication skills or spoken skills.

Signs and Symptoms of Autism

The following signs may indicate autism:

  • Producing unpleasant sounds like grunts, shrieks, or harsh sounds
  • Inability to talk at all
  • Babbling frequenting and making unclear sounds or words
  • Talking or humming in a musical way
  • Producing robotic-like speech
  • Using the right phrases and sentences, but in a flat, unexpressive tone
  • Sounding like a parrot or repeating what another person says (a condition called as echolalia)

People with autism are troubled by poor communication and speaking skills, which adversely affect their quality of life. The problem amplifies as the person grows. However, timely treatment and speech therapy, among others, can help them lead a normal life. And, for this, it is important to address the problem as early as possible. Being a child, it is better to learn things and adapt themselves to the situation.

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