How autism is treated depends on who you are and who your kid is.
After my daughter’s teacher told us to take her to a doctor to try and find out why her behaviors were the way they were, it took a while to find out what to do next. Our doctor said to take her to a mental health professional. When we finally found a clinic locally, it took months before the therapist could say he thought it was some form of autism.
Great. Autism. Now what?
For a couple of years we stayed with George, even when he moved to a new clinic. He was our first. The adults liked him because he was a little bit snarky, but was really good with my daughter. He really hit home with the adults too because his son had autism, so he “got it”. He knew what the behaviors could be like. He understood the frustration. Medic
But, despite how much we liked him personally, we had to figure out how to help my daughter. There are many different treatments for Autism. Many parents worry that they will have to use medications that can be dangerous to their child. This is not the case.
While some children need medication, not all children do. There are a lot of other treatments available to the Autistic child besides prescription medication. Some people use standard types of treatment, while others will try an alternative, or a more natural plan. I’d like to share with you some common treatment plans and what our experience has been.
Medication for autism
Medications used to treat autism seem to fall into other categories than autism. What I mean is that what your kiddo gets prescribed was probably originally designed to help with another kind of disorder, like anxiety or hyperactivity. There are many types of medications used in treating Autism. Mostly, the medicine used to treat autism is just like other medicine in that they treat the symptoms rather than the causes. For instance, autistic children sometimes have problems falling asleep or staying asleep all night. It’s only been two years now that my daughter isn’t up in the middle of the night for a few hours!
Antipsychotic drugs are often used in children dealing with behavioral problems like anger or violence. These medications will not cure the Autism, but can often make your child happier, or at least, less angry.
The flip side is that medications can have terrible side effects and your child will need to be be monitored closely while on any medication. For instance, the one and only medicine that has consistently helped my daughter not be angry and severely upset all the time causes food cravings and the sensation that she’s hungry all the time. This can lead to diabetes, and it did for my daughter. We just got that diagnosis about a month ago.
Occupational therapy helps to teach the Autistic child to be independent. They learn daily skills they need like dressing, or taking a bath. They will work on fine motor skills. They also teach the child to use any devices they may have to help them function in daily life. They will be taught safety measures. This could be safety when outside, or dangers in the house.
For us, occupational therapy began in school. She had and still has poor fine motor skills, so writing, tieing shoes and even just pulling up her pants can be awkward. Because of her sensory issues, she wasn’t even aware of her body much of the time. That is typical for autism and occupational therapy can help them recognize when it’s appropriate to do perform certain tasks.
Many Autistic children require physical therapy. This type of therapy can help children with low muscle tone. They also work with young children on basic motor skills. This can include walking, standing, and rolling. While we didn’t get physical therapy, there are many sensory techniques that fall into physical therapy, like using an excerzise ball, or doing stretches.
Behavioral therapy will concentrate on teaching the Autistic child appropriate behaviors. Usually this will include some form of a reward system. They are taught how to act in social settings. This therapy is often done in the child’s home setting. The parents are taught ways to deal with the child’s unwanted behaviors. Usually an Autistic child will learn they will be rewarded for good behaviors, and they will stop some of the bad behavior.
For us, rewards didn’t work, unless they were immediate. I hate to compare my daughter to a dog, but the correlation between good behavior (appropriate behavior) and a reward had to be within a short amount of time or she couldn’t put them together.
For my daughter, speech wasn’t exactly difficult, but getting the thought from her mind through her mouth was very difficult. It was also really hard for her to know what to call her emotions. Sometimes they have problems understanding non verbal cues, too. She used to think it was funny when I was angry. Not the right response to an upset mom!
Some Autistic children don’t speak at all, so they have to be taught ways to communicate with others. Children with Autism need to be taught about body language. Some children with Autism that do not speak are taught to communicate by signing, or with the use of pictures. The speech therapist will work on getting a non verbal child to speak, but I think they’ll also teach them how to use electronic communication devices.
These are just a few of the many treatments available to a child with Autism. Not all children will require all of the treatments. The most important factor is to find a treatment plan that works for your child. With proper treatment your Autistic child can thrive.