Every child has greatness inside of them including every child with Autism. A child with Autism is different and not less than any other child. Our roles are to work together to help your child to reach his fullest potential, whatever that may be for him.
The first thing to know is that children with Autism do best when parents are actively involved in their child’s education and learn as much as possible about Autism. That is why there are many great resources on this page to help you learn both about Autism and the therapies that will help him to learn more skills.
The second thing to do is get your child the appropriate service providers. As a parent, you will always be the expert on your child. However, different professionals are trained to provide support in specific areas where your child is struggling.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapist
ABA therapy helps kids acquire new skills and manage difficult behaviors.
Verbal behavior is the most important part of ABA therapy. The focus of verbal behavior interventions is to teach kids to talk. Research suggests it is the best way to help children with Autism use language to communicate.
Speech therapists work on the physical mechanics of speech. This includes how to properly use the mouth muscles to articulate sounds, how to speak with the appropriate prosody (sound), and how to use language to communicate. Speech therapists might also work on how to appropriately swallow or eat.
*This differs from ABA therapy which works on the behavior behind communication.
Occupational therapists help make sure that children are able to complete the activities of daily living.
For young children this includes things like being able to pick up small objects, tie shoes, button and buckle things, use an appropriate grasp to write and eat, and so much more.
They also may work on sensory regulation and helping a child with body awareness.
Physical therapy focuses on a person’s ability to use their body.
For example sitting, standing, walking, and throwing or catching a ball.
Most people with Autism do not need physical therapy and do not have physical body limitations.
Occupational therapy is usually more appropriate because people with Autism tend to struggle with performing activities rather than having a true physical musculoskeletal problem.
Many kids with Autism have food selectivity issues. They may only eat foods of a specific color, texture, or taste. Some kids will eat at as few as 4-5 foods and will not eat their highly preferred foods if prepared in a different way. For some kids, a feeding therapist may help them learn to try new foods.
Kids may also need help using their mouth muscles to appropriately move food around in their mouth. As mentioned earlier, a speech therapist is usually the one who will work on the physical mechanics of eating.
What role should parents play in therapy
Many parents choose to use therapy time as a time to get things done around the house. However, all studies indicate that the kids who improve the most from their therapies are the ones whose parents are most active in their treatment plans.
It’s important that parents always know what his child’s therapists are working on so that they can help to carry out the goals and continue working on them with their child when they leave.
Children typically learn from their environment all of the time they are awake. In contrast, kids with Autism often miss things if they are not taught them directly. Children with Autism also tend to struggle with generalizing skills or using them in different ways. Parent involvement can significantly help with this.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (n.d.). Aphasia (Practice Portal). Retrieved December 17, 2019, from www.asha.org/Practice-Portal/Clinical-Topics/Aphasia/.
About Occupational Therapy (2019). AOTA Retrieved from https://www.aota.org/About-Occupational-Therapy.aspx
Cohen, Howard, Amerine-Dickens, Mila, Smith, Tristram. (2006). Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 27 (2), 145-155.
Cooper J.O, Heron T.E, Heward W.L. Applied behavior analysis. New York: Macmillan; 1987.
Feeding and Swallowing Disorders in Children. Retrieved December 17, 2019, from https://www.asha.org/public/speech/swallowing/
Lovaas, O. I. (1987). Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55, 3-9.
McEachin, J. J., Smith, T., & Lovaas, O. I. (1993). American Journal on Mental Retardation, 97 (4), 359-372.
Sallows, Glen O. & Graupner, Tamlynn D. (2005). American Journal on Mental Retardation, 110 (6), 417-438.
Smith, T., Green, A., & Wynn, J. (2000). American Journal of Mental Retardation, 105, 269-285.
Who are physical therapists? (2019). APTA Retrieved from https://www.apta.org/AboutPTs/