Autism is a disorder that affects a person’s behavior and communication skills. It often is diagnosed in younger children such as infants and toddlers who are having delays in their development. Some of the early signs of autism include a failure to smile, a lack of interaction with others and not responding to his or her name being called. After a person has been diagnosed with autism, he or she can be treated with a variety of treatments, including therapy. The different types of therapy for autism are behavior therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy.
Behavior therapy for autism focuses on teaching autistic children and adults how to behave properly. There are several different approaches to this type of therapy, but most physicians recommend using applied behavioral analysis, which is a simple form of behavioral therapy. Applied behavioral analysis uses techniques to reward patients for correctly following directions and meeting specific goals, such as interacting with other people. In order to see positive results, the patient should receive 25 to 40 hours of one-on-one therapy each week.
Physical therapy is provided to individuals with autism to help improve their coordination skills and muscle tone. This type of therapy for autism often is needed for younger children who might be experiencing developmental delays with motor skills such as walking, jumping and throwing. A range of exercises can be done with a licensed physical therapist at home, at school or at a clinic. These exercises might include dancing, water therapy and horseback riding.
Another form of therapy for autism is speech therapy. Licensed speech and language therapists work with an individual to improve his or her oral skills. In addition to working on improving oral skills, the therapist also might focus on improving social communication skills as well. Physicians recommend starting speech therapy as soon as possible in order to see better results over the long term. The frequency and amount of the speech therapy that is needed each week might vary based on the severity of the autism.
Studies show that autism therapy often has the best results when autism is diagnosed early during childhood. Most physicians will recommend a range of tests such as a medical evaluation, behavior screening and a hearing test before diagnosing a person with autism. If a parent notices any signs of autism or is concerned about a child’s late development, the parent should consult the child’s physician or make an appointment with a health professional who specializes in autism.