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Modern interventions for the treatment of Autism Spectrum disorder

Modern interventions for the treatment of Autism Spectrum disorder

There has been witnessed an upsurge in the number of autism cases all over the world. Research studies have revealed that 80% of the causes behind autism have been linked to the genetic makeup of an individual and that 20% of the causes of autism can be attributed to environmental factors of an individual. These factors may include early-life exposure to neurotoxins, advanced parental age especially that of older fathers, maternal nutritional status and body mass index, maternal substance use, and unhealthy dietary patterns in modern life. This suggests the importance of employing various intervention strategies for the treatment of ASD. Some of the modern psychological interventions in the field of ASD include:-

A. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

It is a highly structured and scientific approach that makes use of rewards/reinforcements to teach new skills and encourage positive behavior. In this therapy, Parents and other caregivers are also trained such that moment-by-moment feedback can be given to the child. The goals of the treatment are highly individualistic and may include social skills, school work, communication skills, personal care, etc. it results in long-lasting effective changes in the child. Each of these skills is broken into its simpler components and are inculcated in children through repetition, reinforcement, and encouragement. The different types of ABA include:-

  1. Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) emphasizes major areas of a child’s development, like taking charge in social situations and self-management.
  2. Verbal Behavior Intervention (VBI) aims at improving the verbal skills of the child using words functionally in order to get the desired response. Through repetition, the child is encouraged to understand that communication reaps positive results i.e. they get what they want(like chocolates)
  3. Discrete Trial Training (DTT) involves breaking the training into simpler parts and teaching through a number of trials
  4. Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) used for young children under 5yrs of age consisting of 20-40 hours per week of individualized instruction for children aimed at changing the developmental trajectory of a child with autism such that behavioral repertoire and rate of learning comes closer to that of normal children. The treatment provided at the early-stage results in improving the communicative, social, and adaptive behavioral repertoires of autistic children such that they become independent functioning adults. 
B. Social Skills Class

It aims at improving interaction and social bonding in the child. It’s a group or one-on-one instruction at home, in school, or in the community. Learning is accomplished through role-playing or practice

c. Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

 It teaches the child to trade pictures for items or activities he seeks. It is opted for those children who don’t speak, can’t understand, or are difficult to understand.

D. Developmental and Individual Differences Relationship (DIR) Therapy

Here, therapist and parents engage children through activities he/she enjoys. It works on a child with the motivation to involve and interact with people around. The child’s lead is followed by the therapist in working on new skills.

E. Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)

It is a family-centered approach that aims at establishing better relationships by defining the social and emotional objectives in the therapy. It targets sharing experiences with each other and forming a strong emotional bond. It is preferably used with parents. The goal of therapy focuses on setting up goals that are associated with interpersonal engagement, like motivation to engage with others and empathy. It further breaks down those goals into simple achievable tasks reached step by step like two-sided communication and building eye contact.

F. Special education schools

These schools provide comprehensive education through specially trained mentors. The program relies on the operant conditioning principles (mainly reinforcements) and shaping the behavior to reach the desired behavior. Eg: small food rewards for eye contact. The focus was put on enhancing the vocabulary using pictures, improving language skills through imitation, teaching dressing skills, toilet training, reducing temper-tantrums using time-outs, feeding skills, improving interpersonal skills with other children, and reducing self-stimulatory behavior.

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