A Unique Treatment for Every Child
Every child has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses, and each child’s disability affects their functioning in different ways and to different degrees. There is not one approach that alleviates symptoms in all children all of the time. An effective treatment approach capitalizes on the child’s assets, and incorporates a team of professionals to help target areas that require additional support.
Anecdotal and empirical evidence have shown that individuals with autism respond favorably to highly structured education and behavior modification programs that are tailored to their individual needs. A well designed intervention approach often incorporates language/communication therapy, social skills development, occupational therapy, and behavior modification, among others.
It is important to choose service providers who are specially trained in autism and developmental disorders, and who are able to provide services in a consistent and coordinated manner. In terms of educational placement, many children with autism tend to excel in small group or 1:1 formats.
Children with autism should begin training as early as possible in vocational skills and community living skills. Self-help skills, such as learning to cross a street safely, to make a simple purchase, or to ask for assistance when needed, are critical skills for enabling the child to function effectively in their environment. When a child is able to get their needs met and operate in their community successfully, they develop confidence, a sense of independence, and self-esteem.
To maximize efficacy, treatment approaches should be flexible in nature, rely on positive reinforcement, and be monitored and adjusted on a consistent basis. In addition, effective programs incorporate generalization opportunities at home, school, and in the community, and training/support systems for the caregivers as well. Rarely can a family, classroom teacher or other caregiver provide effective intervention for a child with autism without guidance from professionals in the field.
A generation ago, 90% of people diagnosed with autism were institutionalized. Thanks to developments and improvements in the way we conceptualize and treat autism, people with the disorder are able to access their full potential, reaching the highest degree of independence possible, and leading an improved quality of life.