Types of Treatments and Therapies
Although there are some shared characteristics between individuals on the autism spectrum, it is important to note that the wide array and variance in the degree of symptoms means that there is no one size fits all approach to treating autism. It is important to work closely with professionals to assess the needs of the individual and work on finding the best approach to meet those needs. Although there are a variety of different approaches, they will generally fall into the following categories:
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
Currently, ABA is the most researched and widely accepted method of treating autism. Generally, ABA focuses on increasing positive behaviors while simultaneously decreasing negative or disruptive behaviors. There are many different types of ABA:
Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) - A relationship-focused developmental model which utilizes ABA practices to increase age-appropriate skills and behaviors. There is a heavy reliance on parental involvement, shared engagement with joint activities, and a naturalistic approach.
Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT) - DTT is a highly structured method of ABA which involves teaching desired skills one step at a time using several repeated trials. Positive responses are reinforced, and negative responses are ignored.
Natural Environment Teaching (NET) - NET utilizes the principles of ABA to teach in the natural environment. Unlike DTT, NET is child led and relies on the child's motivation.
Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) - PRT aims to increase a child’s motivation to learn, and it is one of the best studied and validated behavioral treatments for autism. It is play-based and child-initiated, with a focus on developing positive social behaviors, communication, and language.
Verbal Behavior Intervention (VBI) - VBI focuses on teaching children how to use language and communicate ideas, rather than merely teaching words. The objective is to help children understand that communicating produces positive results.
Speech-language Therapy (SLT) - Therapy which focuses on helping the child communicate both verbally and non-verbally in more useful and functional ways.
Occupational Therapy (OT) - Therapy which focuses on appropriate play skills, learning, and self-care skills in order to teach the child to live as independently as possible.
Sensory Integration Therapy (SI) - Therapy which focuses on addressing sensory sensitivities by improving how the brain interprets and processes sensory information.
Social Skills - Although not an official form of therapy, focusing on improving social interactions can significantly improve social development.