By: Sabiha Toni
When we think of illnesses, we think of medicine—rows upon rows of multicolored, multi-shaped pills with their individual ratios and concoctions of chemicals. We run to our nearest drug store for an upset stomach or strep throat. It is easy enough to administer medications, inject IV’s, or swallow capsules to treat the brief bouts of discomfort that we expect to end once the treatment takes effect. But what if this condition had a chronic and perpetual hold? And what if there was no cure?
Research has progressed concerning effective treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorders. Though there are not many effective pharmacological options to treat autism, behavior therapies are often recommended for autistic individuals (McPheeters et al., 2011). Autism takes continuous psychological treatment alongside any supplemental medications for proper management. ABA techniques, or applied behavioral analysis techniques, are often used to treat autism. The goal is to assist in problem areas such as unwanted behaviors, development, and learning by regulating every day activities (Myers, Johnson, 2007). The treatments tackle issues including:
- Improvement of communication skills
- Development of social skills, such as imitation and reciprocation
- Adaptation and self-reliance
- Cognitive skills
- Intellectual/academic skills
Applied Behavior Analysis is used to target unwanted behaviors while retaining and increasing acceptable ones. It is also possible to introduce new behaviors as well as adapt them to different environments. Often, this requires monitoring the individual for at least 25 hours per week with methodically and appropriately designed sets of activities for the autistic person. The activities are structured and often based around predictable routines. Autistic individuals often interact with a social worker either one-on-one or in small groups, since a low student-to-teacher ratio is necessary for sufficient individual attention (Myers, Johnson, 2007).
Since autism can be detected at an early age, early intervention programs are highly recommended to children who display appropriate signs. If such behavior therapies are administered at earlier stages, it may lead to better management of the disorder later on in life (Rogers, Vismara, 2010). Parent figures play a large part in early intervention therapies. They are educated about techniques to improve and increase certain behaviors and discourage others. They are also taught to facilitate social and communication skills in their children. Multiple studies show the efficacy in these treatments, in which more children had a lower severity of autism, developed speech, and increased IQs (Rogers, Vismara, 2010).
It is important to keep in mind that Autism Spectrum Disorders have a range of signs and severities, so routines and behavioral programs should be tailored to the individual’s needs. Autism’s chronic and ongoing influence demands intensive and involved therapies. Though there is no single pill or overnight remedy to ASDs, studies show that treatment is far from a hopeless cause. Applied Behavior Analysis is simply one of these options.
McPheeterson, ML, Warren, Z, Sathe, N, Bruzek, JL, Krishnaswami, S, Jerome, RN, Veenstra-VanderWeele, J. A systematic review of medical treatments for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Pediatrics. 2011; 127(5): e1312-e1321.
Myers, SM, Johnson, CP. Management of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Pediatrics. 2007; 120(5): 1162-82.
Rogers, SJ, Vismara, LA. Evidence-based comprehensive treatments for early autism. J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol. 2010; 37(1): 8-38.