It can get very confusing and distressing for parents who have autistic children. Firstly they have to mentally accept that their child has Autism. Secondly, they are confused as to where to start in terms identifying a skilled therapist, the kind of therapies, and the duration and frequency.
So now if you have got an official diagnosis about your child having Autism/ Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), what should be your next plan of action?
These days, most pediatricians would guide you to intervention centers or therapists you could approach for therapies. However, it is you as a parent who knows your child the best. I know of parents who go to various therapists and intervention centers till they find someone who is most suitable to work with their child. In reality a lot of trial and error method goes on till they find someone whom they are satisfied with.
One thing a parent should understand is that no two children with Autism are similar. The issues and challenges faced by each child might be very different. What works for one might not work very well for the other. However, there are some primary therapies that should be offered to all children with Autism.
OT addresses two main problems faced by kids with autism - Low muscle tone and poor coordination. This interferes with gross motor skills like running, climbing, jumping and fine motor skills, such as drawing, writing and manipulating toys etc. OT also addresses sensory processing disorder, where a child doesn't properly process sensations. Like for example a child can react negatively to loud noises or does not like being hugged. Issues like hyperactivity, constant moving about, being picky about food texture, etc. can be tackled by OT. As these issues can interfere with the child's daily activities, it is advisable for a child should spend 1 to 3 hours each week in OT.
An Occupational therapist will use various techniques using brushes, ladders, deep pressure balls, trampoline, balancing bar, heavy clothing like a weighted jacket, swings etc. If the therapy is successful and as per the child's requirement, the child will be calmer and better able to adjust to the world around him. This in turn would help the child to focus on tasks and learn new skills.
All children with Autism will have some degree of language difficulty. Some do not speak at all. Many use normal words but not appropriately. Most kids would need some kind of speech therapy to communicate properly. A child should spend at least 2 hours in a week getting speech therapy. Choose a Speech therapist who understands the challenges faced by the child with Autism. Because it's not merely focusing on the mouth, tongue and lips, rather how the brain processes and creates ideas and turn them into words and sentences. A speech therapist also works on improving eye contact.
Social skills Therapies:
Teaching children with autism to fit into the world around them is a primary goal of therapy. Children tend to play alone or even if they want to interact with other children, they do not know how to approach. Normally, social skills are taught in a small group where the children learn to interact with others.
Besides the above basic therapies, there are behavioral intervention therapies like ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis), which is considered to be most effective especially in children up to four years of age. ABA focusses on teaching a child to play appropriately, social interaction, reducing self-injurious behaviors, stimming etc.
Whatever therapy you choose for your child, it should start right away. It's best not to wait, because early intervention is one of the most important aspects of treating Autism. In major cities like Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Delhi there are diagnostic centers with developmental pediatricians and host of therapists under one roof. In case you stay in a place, where the facilities are limited, you can choose to take home based programs from a therapist, learn how to teach and you could work at home with your child. At periodic intervals, you can assess the child's progress and goals achieved with the help of your therapist.
We all know that there is no cure for Autism. The best we can do, as a parent is to give the child the most appropriate therapies and a conducive environment for them, to learn and cope up with the chaotic world around them. It can get very frustrating for the parents at times. But we as parents can never give up and should be persistent because the tide will eventually turn someday. Good luck to all the warrior parents out there!!!!!!!!!
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