Wow is this a great topic.
For starters, let me say that there is NO right answer. Please keep an open mind to what everyone says because, just like our children with autism, every family, parent, situation is totally different. While my wife and I have our beliefs and preferences when it comes to treatment, medication, therapy for our 5-year-old son, it might not necessarily be the right one for you and your family.
First and foremost…be on the same page with your family–know your budget, DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH…don’t just take the word of some dumb Hollywood Z-list “celebrity” or from a friend’s friend’s aunt who read a book somewhere on autism…take the time to research and check it out…what does it cost? What are the positives? What are the potential negatives? What are other PROFESSIONALS saying??? Remember: there is no cure and there is no quick fix when it comes to autism…you’re in this for the long haul, so don’t be impatient.
Okay…here we go…therapy for your child with autism.
First and foremost…EARLY INTERVENTION IS KEY. Here is a link to a YouTube clip TheFowler4Group participated in a few years ago talking about the benefits and importance of early intervention: Early Intervention is Key
I know for young families there is a mourning, scared, angry, fearful stage…but you’ve got to get past that ASAP–not saying you’ll ever stop mourning or being angry, but in order to do what’s best for your family and your child, grieve while moving forward. Early intervention is key because our children on the spectrum are already behind the curve. By starting early and attacking some of the areas like fine motor skills, eye contact, gross motor skills, verbalization, behavior…you are going to see a vast difference than if you just wait for the public school system to do something when they start kindergarten.
There are a number of organizations across the country that offer subsidized treatment for early intervention. I would suggest you Google “early intervention” in your area of the country and see what pops up. In Texas we have an organization called Early Childhood Intervention (ECI)–I know, very original right? But they came out and did an assessment of our son, worked with us in the home, provided speech and occupational therapy and also visited with my wife and me twice during the two years we went through their program.
After we graduated ECI, we started Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy. ABA therapy is, “the science in which the principles of the analysis of behavior are applied systematically to improve socially significant behavior, and in which experimentation is used to identify the variables responsible for change in behavior. It is one of the three fields of behavior analysis. The other two are behaviorism, or the philosophy of the science; and experimental analysis of behavior, or basic experimental research.”
Okay I stole that from some Website–what is ABA therapy in everyday terms?
An ABA program is a systematic teaching approach that involves breaking down skills into small, easy-to-learn steps. Praise or other rewards are used to motivate the child, and progress is continually measured so the teaching program can be adjusted as needed.
Example: when my son started ABA therapy I went and watched and they had all these little crackers and goldfish and treats…they would say “William, put the circle in the box”…and he would find the piece that was a circle and put it in the box (kid gets a cracker). They they would say “the airplane is flying”…and he pretends it’s flying…then “the airplane is sleeping”…pretends it’s sleeping. (kid gets more treats).
This is very basic and now that he’s 5-years-old it’s much more focused on behavior and harder tasks, but you get the gist. Each ABA program is tailored uniquely for your child and their ability.
ABA therapy is widely recognized as the SINGLE MOST EFFECTIVE treatment for children with ASD and the only treatment shown to lead to substantial, lasting improvements in the lives of individuals with autism.
ABA is the only treatment for autism whose benefits have been consistently validated by independent scientific research. In fact, ABA has been endorsed as an effective intervention for autism by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the United States Surgeon General.
Every child can benefit from ABA therapy by learning new skills and reducing problem behaviors. Seek a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) when signing up for an ABA program…especially if you want insurance coverage.
For more information on ABA therapy, insurance coverage, a father’s perspective on dealing with issues of having a child with autism, helpful Websites and in-home training exercises, check out Look At My Eyes which is our new book that will hopefully help you as you move through your journey.