Which Behavior Therapy Works Best for Children With Autism? (Emmett)

“There is no cure for autism, but various interventions diminish the symptoms, sometimes profoundly. Since both social and communication challenges are part of the autism diagnosis, behavioral and speech language therapy typically comprise the basis of a treatment plan” (O’Rourke-Lang & Bertin).

Parents are often confused over which behavioral therapy approach to take. For starters, schools frequently move autistic children into the mainstream early in their schooling. While that’s always the larger goal, shifting a child away from intensive behavioral programs that support social growth too soon can hamper his progress. Children who receive ongoing therapy are more likely to outgrow the diagnosis entirely, even if they spend less time in the mainstream initially (O’Rourke-Lang & Bertin).

This therapy [ABA] is the most-researched intervention for autism, and has been used for more than 50 years. It is a highly structured, scientific approach that teaches play, communication, self-care, academic and social living skills, and reduces problematic behaviors. A lot of research shows that it improves outcomes for children with autism (O’Rourke-Lang & Bertin).

ABA involves a therapist breaking down skills into component parts and, through repetition, reinforcement, and encouragement, helping a child learn them. With ABA, a therapist observes a child’s abilities and defines what would benefit him, even when a child is not interested in learning particular skills (O’Rourke-Lang & Bertin).

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which has been around since the 1960s, is usually recommended for children with milder symptoms of autism. Cognitive behavioral therapy aims to define the triggers of particular behaviors, so that a child starts to recognize those moments himself (O’Rourke-Lang & Bertin).

Social skills groups help children engage in pragmatic language and manage real-world difficulties with peers. While observational studies show them to be effective, less research supports their success so far (O’Rourke-Lang & Bertin).

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