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Posts tagged ‘ABA’

Top 8 Autism Therapies – As Reported by Parents of Kids with Autism

(Originally posted as a guest blog on Autism Speaks)

Every parent of a child with autism asks themselves, “Am I doing enough to help my child?”  They look to doctors, specialists, and (particularly) other parents with kids just like theirs for ideas and for validation that they are on the right course.  With more therapies out there than there are hours in the week and dollars in the bank account / second mortgage to pursue them, parents are forced to prioritize.  So what are the “best” therapies out there?  Which ones work best for other kids just like yours?  We asked the world’s foremost experts – parents of kids with autism – that very question.   To be specific, we asked the parents on - a social network for more than 28,000 parents of individuals with autism – the following question: “What therapies, if any, worked best for your child”?   

Here’s an example of what that question and answer looks like in the story of one mother on MyAutismTeam.  

About one-third of the parents on MyAutismTeam have answered this question and more do every day as it is part of the sign-up process.   What’s beautiful about this question is that it is highly personal.  It doesn’t ask, “What are the best therapies for autism?”  Instead, it asks the parent to list the therapies that work best for their child.   What “works best” for one child on the spectrum may not work at all for another child or, in the case of occupational or speech therapy, need to be significantly tailored to the developmental needs of each child.  Still, there is power in seeing how thousands of parents answer this question.  We counted up all the therapies mentioned.  Most parents answer this question by listing one or two therapies.

Here are the therapies parents reported as working best for their children, rank-ordered by percent of mentions and including only those therapies that received at least 1% of mentions:

1. Occupational Therapy – 39%

2. Speech Therapy – 27%

3. ABA Therapy – 15%

4. Social Skills Classes – 8%

Hippotherapy, or equine-assisted occupational therapy, can be therapeutic for many children with sensory processing disorders

5. Hippotherapy (OT through horseback riding) – 2%

6. GFCF Diet – 2%

7. Psychiatrist/Psychologist sessions – 2%

8. (5-way tie, each with 1%): Floor Time, RDI, PECs, Swimming, PRT

Other therapies / keywords listed that got less than 1% of mentions

  • Mainstream schooling – 0.1%
  • iPad – 0.1%
  • Vision therapy, aqua therapy 
  • Vitamin supplements, Chelation, Hyperbaric Chambers – (all combined these last three terms received less than one-tenth of one percent of mentions)

What Does It Mean?

To be clear we are not doing rigorous science here and this is not meant to be comprehensive research but rather a reflection of what about 8,000 parents said worked best for their child.   Here were a few of my take-aways:

  1. Early intervention is working: OT, Speech,  ABA and Social Skills therapy win the mentions tally in a landslide.  Floor Time, RDI, PECs, PRT and equine-assisted OT (horseback riding therapy) also would be included in that group as they are often led by an OT.  The overwhelming majority of parents surveyed said it “worked best” for their child.  Occupational therapists help children on a wide range of developmental topics including sensory processing disorder, motor skill development, social interaction, potty training, sleep training and much more.  To learn more about occupational therapy and a range of other early intervention therapies download the free 100-Day Kit from Autism Speaks and also read through the long list of other tool-kits on more specific topics such as ABA therapy.  In addition you can check out the Autism Treatments page and video glossaryon Autism Speaks for more background on early intervention.

    Autism Speaks free 100 Day Kit explains most therapies available for autism.

  2. Early intervention services tend to be the ones offered to parents by the state and by the public school systems as they are evidence-based therapies.  ABA therapy tends to be one of the only therapies covered by insurance companies in states that mandate insurance companies to cover autism.  Naturally, more parents are going to have tried these services than some alternative therapies not covered by their schools or their insurance.   For instance, many parents rave about hippotherapy on MyAutismTeam, but share that they are unable to continue it for budget reasons.
  3. That said, many parents on MyAutismTeam have tried out everything possible over the years in their quest to help their children.  Of those, only a handful point to expensive or non evidence-based therapies such as chelation or hyperbaric chambers as being the thing that worked “best” for their child.  Many parents report that in terms of bang-for-your buck, sticking with OT and Speech is best.
  4. Just because a therapy isn’t mentioned on this list doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work.  I want to pro-actively address this issue and prevent an onslaught of comments about all the therapies we’ve left off.  This was an “unaided survey” meaning we just asked the question but didn’t offer a multiple choice list of answers.  We let parents answer this question in whatever they wish and have simply counted up and categorized the therapies that came to the top of their mind as being best for their child.

Find Out What Works Best for Your Child

One key thing to remember here is that these answers reflect the broad range of parents on MyAutismTeam with children from all parts of the autism spectrum.  We all know what works for one child on the spectrum may not do anything for another child with different developmental needs.   The question most parents want to answer is, “What therapies work best for kids just like mine.”   One of the best way to get constant, up-to-date answers on that question is to build relationships with other parents of kids like yours.  You can do that for free by joining MyAutismTeam.  You can click on “Find Parents” and search for parents of kids like yours.  Connect with them, learn what is working for them, and share what is working for you.    If you need a recommendation of an occupational therapist, or speech pathologist, you can see which providers other parents near you have on their teams.    There’s a lot of wisdom in the collective experiences of 28,000 parents of kids with autism.   You’re not alone and you don’t have to re-invent the wheel.

Other useful resource for learning about early intervention and autism therapies include The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism and the CDC’s Autism Page.

School’s Out for Summer — But Fears of Regression Looms for Parents of Kids with Autism

“I Hate Summer” was a recent post by Laura Rossi Totten on The Huffington Post. She writes,

Special Needs Parenting is challenging 365 days of the year. Unlike the shorter winter break or spring vacation, summer is unique because it is long and most special needs children now expect the routine, support, predictability and familiarity of the school year. Frequently, school-age special needs children struggle with the concept of time and that contributes to the confusion and anxiety many children experience during these three months.

What’s a parent to do? What options exist?

For parents who are looking for ways to keep their kids progressing (whether they’re Aspies, high-functioning, or non-verbal), there are few inexpensive options to turn to during the summer months. We recently spoke with Robyn Catagnus, EdD, BCBA-D of Rethink Autism to learn more about the online curriculum they offer parents.

MyAutismTeam interview with Robyn Catagnus, EdD, BCBA-D of Rethink Autism

Q:  The ultimate “transition strategy” by Dr. Peter Gerhardt, President and Chair of the Scientific Council at the Organization for Autism Research — a behaviorist who has taken part in a webinar for Rethink Autism — has been emulated by therapists around the country:

  • If you can teach the skill, teach it
  • If you can’t teach the skill, adapt it
  • If you can’t adapt it, figure out some way around it
  • If you can’t figure out some way around it, teach the neuro typicals to deal.

How does this apply — if at all — to the type of online curriculum Rethink Autism offers parents, which they leverage at home with their own kids?

Rethink Autism also begins with an effort to teach skills directly. Our program includes lesson plans and videos that demonstrate how to teach every skill in an entire curriculum for areas such as expressive language, receptive language, social and emotional, play and leisure, pre-academics, early academics, daily living, and motor skills. Every lesson and video has several ideas for adapting the skill or instruction specifically for your child. The program offers many ways to think systematically about your child’s needs, and allows for simple, effective data collection so you can see how things are working.  The ideas and repeated practice with teaching helps parents figure out ways around issues that arise. The Behavior Tracker module in Rethink Autism is another great tool to work around behaviors by assisting parents with identifying patterns and providing support and interventions based on that information.

Q: What kind of parent most benefits from Rethink Autism?

Any parent who wants to help their child learn new skills or decrease problem behavior could benefit from Rethink Autism. Parents can use the strategies even if they are beginners with ABA, and the program can be used as a source of ideas and everyday strategies, or as an intensive behavioral intervention program.

Q: Is this the same as homeschooling?

Rethink Autism does not require homeschooling. It is a curriculum to address the intervention needs of learners with autism spectrum disorders. It includes easy-to-use lesson plans, videos, data collection tools, reporting, and behavioral tracking and assessment tools. Those strategies and tools can be applied in any learning setting – home, community settings, public school, pre-school, home school, and more. It even helps parents and professionals communicate and document intervention across all those settings, empowering the parent to see all their child’s information and participate in teaching and programming.

Q: If my child has never been introduced to ABA therapy techniques, what should I expect?

You can expect your child to enjoy learning and develop new skills! Positive reinforcement is an important part of teaching with these techniques, so parents learn to engage children in a fun, educational way. Our videos show many strategies that help children learn quickly and effectively, while making very few errors. It is more fun to learn when you are successful and receive recognition or rewards for your efforts. The strategies are also very systematic and thoughtful in order to maximize learning every day. Even if you and your child have never been introduced to ABA, you will find the lessons very understandable, easy to use, and effective.

Q: Is this for parents of young children only? Or only parents of kids who are verbal?

Our lessons address a wide range of skills, abilities, and behavioral needs for children from age 18-months through early adolescence developmentally. There are lessons for children who communicate vocally or non-vocally. The first step is a brief assessment to determine the skill level of your child in various domains, and the program recommends lessons personalized for their needs. The curriculum ranges from skills needed by early learner for the very basics of communication, social interactions, or problem behavior- and the lessons progress gradually to address complex skills in every domain. As your child develops, the program grows and changes with them!

Q: What tips do you have for parents just starting with Rethink Autism’s online curriculum?

I recommend that you start with a few lessons, perhaps two or three. Select lessons that you and your child are likely to do well, leading to success. Be patient with yourself and your child. Most importantly, stick with it! After some practice, the process becomes familiar and comfortable, so you can expand, teaching more lessons and challenging your child to learn even more.

Q: What is Rethink Autism, not?

Rethink Autism is not meant to be a substitute for services or support by a trained autism expert or board certified behavior analyst. Ideally, when possible, our program can be used as a way to enhance team coordination and enhance any direct services a child receives. It is critical to have a clear path of learning, data for decisions, collaboration, and excellent teaching. Rethink Autism provides parents with the tools to ensure these elements of successful intervention for their teams.

Q: What can parents expect after a few months?

Expect to notice your child demonstrating new skills and having fewer problem behaviors. Using Rethink Autism works and parents around the world see meaningful changes after just weeks or months. When your child is learning and there are fewer problem behaviors, it really makes family life easier and more enjoyable. Such outcomes can be life changing for everyone in the family.

Rethink Autism has offered parents from MyAutismTeam a special discounted offer: 25% off the quarterly package price. In the promotional code field, simply type:  MAT25  to receive the offer. You’ll receive a 3-month curriculum to use with your child for less than $180 (plus, a consultation call free of charge). The regular price is $240.

If you try this service offered by Rethink Autism, let us know if it’s helped your child this summer. If it’s effective at helping your child progress, definitely add Rethink Autism to your provider team. We welcome your feedback on all services we bring to the community. MyAutismTeam strives to provide services and products at discounted rates for our parent community. Thank you for your continuous feedback and participation within the MyAutismTeam community.

Teens IQ’s and Brains Can Change – Of Course!

“IQ is malleable.”   A recent study published online in Nature and summarized in the Wall Street Journal found evidence that IQ is not fixed (as was once thought), but instead can change over time correlated with changes in the brain.  Specifically the study looked at 33 British teens (the sample was too small to draw broad conclusions for all teens), giving them an IQ test and MRI in 2004 and again in 2008.  What they found is that IQs jumped up or down for about 1 in 5 teens and those changes corresponded to changes in the brain.

There is speculation that the change in brain structure and associated change in IQ is the result of learning experiences.  In other words environmental factors, mental engagement, learning new thing, can all affect brain structure and intelligence.

The quantitative side of me was alert to the small sample size and correlation/causality questions, but my non-scientific, gut reaction to this news screamed out, “Of course it does!”  It immediately made me think of early intervention, of aggressive, hands-on speech therapy, occupational therapy, ABA therapy and all the proven good it does for children on the autism spectrum.   So many of the parents on MyAutismTeam report that early intervention therapy had the biggest impact on their children.   That learning and focused attention matters enormously and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it alters the brain, and changes IQs (or whatever measure of intellectual potential you wish to measure).   Doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to me at all.  I think time, and larger studies will prove that this is one more reason to fight for early intervention and never give up on our kids.


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