Autistic children have special needs and skills. There are a number of therapies for these children that focus on developing skills or improving upon the skills that they have. The three most common for these children are Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), Speech and Occupational Therapy (OT). Then there is the gluten/casein free diet and the IGG test that can help you to further eliminate foods that can cause a reaction. We’ll start with ABA, speech and OT and the ability the work them into daily life.
Autistic children will often have a number of therapists. Watching and talking to those therapists will help you to notice things that you might not have noticed before. You have to keep in mind that each therapist will be focusing on a different goal and tasks.
Speech is self explanatory, this therapist wants your child to communicate. Signing stimulates speech and a few basic signs can help a formerly non-verbal child to communicate their needs. The beginning of speech is an attempt to get words to come out and have the child interact. Eventually you move onto asking questions and interaction. Toys are used in speech as well to help with appropriate play skills.
This therapy is a little more complicated to understand at first. No, they aren’t training your two year old for the workforce, they’re trying to get them the basic skills that they need to survive in school. Little things like dressing, feeding, hand eye coordination and writing skills are taught. They also use a variety of things to help strengthen little hands.
Applied Behavioral Analysis
The most complicated therapy of all focuses on reinforcing positive behaviors and basically ignoring negative behaviors. The goal? Positive behaviors are repeated with reinforcement and negative behaviors are eliminated. This is just the basics of the ABA therapy which goes into much greater detail and helps to give Autistic children the skills that they require in life. Twenty to forty hours of ABA a week is the average recommendation for these children.
So how do you work these into life?
The cost of ABA therapy is $55 per hour. This is not affordable to most people for a couple of hours a week but 20 to 40 hours with the therapist is completely out of reach. Focusing on behavior when you get home can be done constantly. Start by ignoring tantrums completely which means no talking to or looking at your child until they calm down. It won’t take too long to notice that the tantrums are slowly disappearing.
When the behavior issues that you were having start to disappear you can begin focusing on other things. Speech is relatively easy to work in, you talk to your child. You can talk in full sentences even when they can’t talk at all. You may have to break some of the speech up until they begin talking though. You want to make sure you’re asking them things they can answer.
You child will probably start to echo you. This is good because eventually that echo turns into spontaneous speech. You may have noticed that your child’s speech therapist uses toys and pictures to get them to talk. This is simple and it can work for you too. Books, flash cards (actually game cards at home) work well for small children.
Once you get your child to sit still long enough you can read to them. They will echo part of what you read to them. Occupational therapy lets your child do things like use play dough or moon sand (easier to clean up) in order to build strength in their hands.
Something as simple as putting things out of a child’s reach can promote talking. When your child wants something they have no choice but to ask for it or at least lead you to it if they can’t get it. Computers are great for speech. At first your child might just push the buttons to hear the sound but after a while you’ll notice that they repeat the sounds and start identifying the objects around them.
Combining the Three
Table or floor time allows you to combine the three therapies in a structured manner at home. You have to begin by turning off the noise in the house and making sure the things you intend to use for that half hour to one hour that you intend to do one on one therapy with your child. Yes, you can get your child to the point where they do structured activities at home with you.
You can talk to your child about what you’re doing. Ask them questions about the activity such as what color, how many, etc. You may have to give the answer at first but after a while they’ll do it on their own.
The therapy these children undergo is rather intense. You can’t make them work all the time but you can work while you’re walking through the store or just driving down the road. The goal is for these precious children to interact and be able to learn in a real life environment so they can survive on their own. Achieving independence with these children is what parents want the most, they don’t want to have to worry about what happens to these very special children if something happens to them.