My review of different works that help to explain some of the unanswered questions about autism. The main question I was seeking to answer though, is which type of treatment is the best to use on a young child with autism. We’ll find out…
It’s important to first understand the different aspects of autism, such as what it is, what are the main characteristics of it, and what causes it, before moving on to what types of treatments are available and which treatment is the best. There is such a high increase in the amount of children being diagnosed due to the many revisions of the DSM, which includes more diagnostic categories for this disorder. With autism being such a complicated disorder to understand it helps knowing what some of the key characteristics to look for are.
Knowing the different kinds of characteristics a child can have will also help in choosing the right type of treatment for them. Some characteristics are also more challenging for some children than others, which makes each individual case a special one. The third point here mentions some of the more common characteristics that you are more likely to see in more cases over the spectrum of this disorder. Lastly, any of these characteristics will begin to show during infancy between 12-15 months making a proper diagnosis available by 24 months of age.
What exactly causes this disorder in such young children? There is no specific answer to this question and no one specific cause yet determined. A genetic cause for autism would mean that the brain develops physically different than others in certain ways. It’s also believed that there can be something that occurs while the baby is in the mothers stomach (prenatal) or during the birth (perinatal) that causes autism. At this point many of these causes are just theories, “formed from a series of case observations rather than from an objective comparison of large groups of children exposed to some possible ‘cause’” (Siegal, 2003).
Understanding all that, we can now move on to the different types of treatments that are available. This first type of treatment helps to deal with the difficulty an autistic child has with communicating verbally and socially. The child will be taught words and then told to repeat them. They then will have to be able to identify the word with a picture of the object, and lastly they will have to be able to use it verbally or socially when talking to others.
This second type of treatment allows the child to have a more structured schedule which they are more comfortable with. It helps to reduce the anxiety they may feel when things are structured. By being able to see when and what time things are going to be done it allows the child to know in an orderly fashion what their day consists of. The child will also begin to understand that some things come before others, which is what the “first-then” strategy is about. For example, work then play.
This type of treatment was first introduced by John Ayres in the 1970s. Many children with autism will show signs of sensory processing difficulties that include over- or under-sensitivity to sensory experiences, abnormally high or low activity levels, poorly organized behavior, poor coordination and motor learning, and delays in their language development (Kurtz, 2008). This type of treatment helps to boost the child to want to be involved in activities. Lastly, this type of treatment helps an autistic child with the difficulty they have with responding appropriately to different stimuli, because they are not always capable of simultaneously stimulating more than one sense at a time.
ABA was originally described by B.F. Skinner and relates to his theories of operant conditioning. By using rewards for wanted behavior it will increase that behavior in occurring more often. Also, by not rewarding unwanted behavior the child learns to reduce those specific behaviors. This treatment pays special attention to the, “qualitative characteristics, the experimental manipulations which analyze with clarity what was responsible for the change, the technologically exact description of all procedures in making sufficient change for value, and the generality of that change” (Baer, et. al., 1968). Overall, this treatment is most effective at teaching skills and getting rid of problematic behaviors the child may have.
The last forms of treatments are categorized together, because they are never really used by themselves. They tend to be paired with the other previously mentioned treatments types to help enhance the results of that treatment. Alone, there is no research that proves they work alone.
This is the main question of this whole review paper. However, still today there are so many questions left unanswered that leaves this question also unanswered. No two children with autism are alike, which is why there are so many different types of treatments available to help each child with their special specific needs. There are some treatments that are better than others, but not one that covers the whole spectrum of problems. All that is known is that early intervention is the best in helping a child with autism.
With so much research left to be done on this special disorder it leaves so many questions unanswered. Hopefully, the more research that’s done the more answers we’ll have, and hopefully that is in the near future!!
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Autism and the Different Types of Treatments AvailableTo Help With Behavioral Functioning<br />Jessica Sharma<br />PSY492<br />
What is Autism?<br />Autism was once defined as strictly a congenital behavior.<br />Today, it is a term used, “to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders known as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD)” (Treating Autism, 2011).<br />One in every 110 children diagnosed. <br />
Key Characteristics<br />“Unusual movements and mannerisms and problems in dealing with change and novelty” (Chawarska, Klin, & Volkmar, 2008).<br />Difficulties in communication, social understanding, and ritualistic and obsessional tendencies (Howlin, 1998).<br />Delays in speech and language development, abnormal social responsivity level, medical problems, and nonspecific difficulties related to sleeping (Chawarska, et. al., 2008).<br />
Causes<br />“There is general professional consensus that autism is biologically based, with a strong genetic component and likely involvement of various neural structures” (Jensen & Sinclair, 2002).<br />Beliefs of prenatal or perinatal causes.<br />Another believed cause is that experiences a child goes through may “write” on their brain that’s physically different causing this abnormal development (Siegal, 2003).<br />Parts of brain affected by Autism<br />
Effective Treatment Types<br />Speech/Verbal Therapy<br />Based off of B.F. Skinner’s analysis, “as a basis for teaching language and shaping behavior” (Treating Autism, 2011). <br />The most important operants are: echois, mands, tacts, and intraverbals (Treating Autism, 2011).<br />“Designed to motivate a child to learn language by developing a connection between a word and its value” (Treating Autism, 2011).<br />
Effective Treatment Types con’t…<br />Visual Schedules<br />“A visual schedule will tell the student with autism what activities will occur and in what sequence” (Stokes, n.d.).<br />Addresses sequential memory and organization of time, while also assisting with language comprehension problems to understand what’s expected of them (Stokes, n.d.).<br />Visual schedules are based on “first-then” strategies.<br />
Effective Treatment Types con’t…<br />Sensory Integration<br />“A normal developmental process involving the ability of the child’s central nervous system to organize sensations from the environment and from with in the body to make adaptive responses necessary for learning and for behavioral regulation” (Kurtz, 2008).<br />Teaches motion, sound, touch, eye-hand coordination, balance, and vision (Healing Thresholds, 2009)<br />
Effective Treatment Types con’t…<br />Applied Behavior Analysis<br />“Process of applying sometimes tentative principles of behavior to the improvements of specific behaviors” (Baer, Wolf, & Risley, 1968).<br />Like operant conditioning, this treatment uses rewards to increase the likelihood of positive behavior.<br />“Self-examining, self-evaluating, discovery-oriented research procedure for studying behavior” (Baer, et. al., 1968).<br />
Effective Treatment Types con’t…<br />Medication, Special Diets, and Vitamin Supplements<br />These three methods are always combined with the treatments previously stated, because they don’t usually help solve the problems the child is dealing with on their own.<br /><ul><li>They are believed to enhance the results of the previously stated treatments. </li></li></ul><li>Conclusion: So Which is Best??<br />There is no single mode of treatment that is effective for all children and families.<br />Intervention has to be adapted to each individual child’s specific needs (Howlin, 1998).<br />Early intervention and diagnosis is critical to an autistic child, because it will increase their abilities to treat the problems they develop.<br />Overall, there is still so much research to be done and so many questions left to answer.<br />
Recommendations: Questions for future research…<br />Will this disorder ever be fully treatable?<br />What goes into the decision making process that underlies specific treatment selection by parents of autistic children?<br />What is the main cause of autism?<br />
References<br />Baer, D.M., Wolf, M.M., and Risley, T.R. (1968). Some current dimensions of applied behavior analysis. The Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1(1), 91-97.<br />Chawarska, K., Klin, A., and Volkmar, F.R. (2008). Autism Spectrum Disorder In Infants and Toddlers: Diagnosis, Assessment, and Treatment. New York, NY: The Guildford Press. <br />Howlin, P. (1998). Practitioner Review: Psychological and Educational Treatments for Autism. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 39(3), 307-322.<br />Jensen, V.K., Sinclair, L.V. (2002). Treatment of Autism in Young Children: Behavioral Intervention and Applied Behavior Analysis. Infants & Young Children, 14(4), 42-52. <br />Siegal, B. (2003). Helping Children with Autism Learn. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc. <br />Stokes, S. (n.d.). Structured Teaching: Strategies for Supporting Students with Autism. Visual Schedules. Retrieved June 2, 2011, from http://www.specialed.us/autism/structure/str10.htm<br />Treating Autism. (2011). Autism Speaks. Retrieved May 10, 2011, fromhttp://www.autismspeaks.org/treatment/index.php<br />