Lifestyle Changes to Manage Autism
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Your first step is to select a treatment program or combination of programs. There are many choices available with a variety of different approaches. Ask your doctor for help in finding a program that is right for you and your child.
Your next and constant step is monitoring your child's progress. Work with therapist that you feel comfortable with and stay involved.
There are many different approaches to help children with autism. Examples of programs include:
- Applied behavioral analysis (ABA)—encompasses many behavioral programs
- Relationship-based developmental program—focuses on interaction, including therapeutic play
- Social skills program
- Treatment and education of autistic and related communication-handicapped children (TEACCH) program—focuses on developing skills and meeting needs
The treatment of communication difficulties may include teaching your child:
- Picture exchange communication system—involves using pictures rather than words to communicate
- American sign language
- Facilitated communication—involves assisting a child to use a keyboard or another device to communicate
There are different types of sensory therapies that are available for people with autism. Examples include:
- Occupational therapy
- Sensory integration therapy—to help with organizing sensory information
- Developmental optometry—to help with vision problems that are related to learning
The following are steps to help your child when he is at home and at school:
- Follow a predictable schedule—Your child may not tolerate change or surprise well. Minimize these types of distractions.
- Maintain a structured environment—Things out of place can be very upsetting to a person with autism.
- Be aware of unusual sensitivities—There is no way of knowing what a person with autism actually receives from his senses. Clothes may feel like sandpaper; broken bones may not hurt; whispers may be roars; hugs may be assaults. Normal expectations must be set aside and entirely new rules adopted.
- Avoid distractions—Slight disturbances may completely disengage a person with autism from the task at hand.
- Organize tasks—Even simple tasks may have to be broken down into fragments and directed one-at-a-time to keep the individual on track. Provide visual activity schedules.
- Try behaviorist methods—These involve rewarding desirable behaviors to increase those behaviors. Work with a behavioral therapist who can provide guidelines for you and your child.
By working with a doctor or therapist who specializes in autism spectrum disorders, you will learn about strategies to help your child make progress at home and at school.
When to Contact Your Doctor
Stay in constant, close communication with your child's doctors, therapists, and anyone else involved in his care. This is the best way to monitor progress and adjust treatments. It is thought early intervention is beneficial.
Autism Society of America. Autism 101 course. Autism Society of America website. Available at: http://www.autism-society.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_course. Accessed June 15, 2010.
Autism spectrum disorders (pervasive developmental disorders). National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-pervasive-developmental-disorders/index.shtml . Updated April 2008. Accessed September 11, 2008.
Behrman RE, et al. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2007.
Goetz CG. Goetz’s Textbook of Clinical Neurology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2007.
Maurice C, Green G, Luce SC, eds. Behavioral Intervention for Young Children with Autism: A Manual for Parents and Professionals . Austin, TX: Pro-Ed; 1996.
Myers SM, Johnson CP. Management of children with autistic spectrum disorders. Pediatrics. 2007;120:1162-1182.
Rapin I. An 8-year-old boy with autism. JAMA . 2001;285:1749-1757.
Stern TA, et al. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier, 2008.
Last reviewed December 2009 by ]]>Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD ]]>
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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