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
- 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
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.