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World Autism Awareness Day: Latest treatment and therapies for autism

Dr Aditi Midha shares input on latest therapies and treatment options for autistic kids.

Written by Bhavyajyoti Chilukoti |Published : April 1, 2016 7:07 PM IST

World Autism Awareness Day is on April 2, 2016

As autism is a developmental disorder, knowing about the key therapies and latest treatment options might help you deal with the condition in a better way. And this is what our expert Dr Aditi Midha, Neuro-Pediatric Physiotherapist, Aktivortho has to say about therapies for treating autistic children.

According to Dr Aditi, 'The treatment therapy differs from child to child, just as the symptoms of the disorder would differ from one child to another. And hence, knowing about the signs and symptoms of the condition -- physical, developmental, psychological, social or emotional --- will help in deciding the treatment option.'

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The underlying principle of therapy is to focus on the core areas affected by autism, which could include social skills, language and communication problems, imitation, play skills, activities of daily living and motor skills- both gross and fine. Here are some of the many goals that are taken into consideration while treating autism.

  • To improve postural control to increase stability during fine motor, gross motor, and self-care activities.
  • To improve static balance to improve motor control and attention and decrease impulsivity.
  • To maximise sensory processing and organisation skills to improve controlled motor skills.
  • To address misalignments in the musculoskeletal system, such as chest wall deformities, and foot and ankle misalignments.
  • To treat impairments in other vital systems that impact motor function, such as problems with respiratory control and coordination.
  • To learn to perform ideation, sequencing, timing and execution components of motor planning.
  • To lay down the foundations of gross motor skills to support participation in community and peer activities.

Interventions

Evidence-based therapies are adopted to treat children with special needs. One or more techniques may be used as a part of early intervention strategies.

Neuro-Developmental Therapy (NDT): It is an advanced therapeutic approach for children aimed at achieving the maximum functional participation of a child in daily skill building exercises. NDT is done by balancing, weight bearing, rotation of trunk and encouraging the use of both sides of the body. These help in improving gross motor development and sequencing motor behavior to achieve a purposeful muscular response.

Balance Therapy: It remains an essential prerequisite for all active, fixed and locomotive activities. In all fundamental and derived positions, balance enhances scope of functional application and development of existing musculoskeletal, balance, psycho-emotional and sensorimotor integration skills and competence. A variety of exercises and technique tools are used, including posturomed, swiss ball exercises, vestibular exercises, and many more fun therapeutic ways are incorporated to attain balance. Also, read about 5 therapies that can improve an autistic child s life.

Sensory Integration Therapy: It is an approach towards treating children with poor sensory integrative function. This approach involves controlling sensory stimulation in order to elicit an adaptive response according to the child s brain functions. It is the ability to process information through the senses of touch, visual and auditory systems and combine perceptions with already stored memory to process the stimuli. After the sensory responses pass through the brain centers, these are then passed through regions in the brain, which is responsible for memory, emotions and cognitive functions.

Praxis: It refers to the ability to plan new movements which involve planning what to do and how to do it. Firstly, a person has to conceive an idea, known as ideation, then create a strategy on how to go about it, which is termed as motor planning. After this is done, then presenting the movement, known as execution and then reflect feedback, thereby adapting to the changes in the future, which is known as feedback and adaptation. It is a complex process and hence, it is important to find new ways to approach a particular task and teach autistic kids on how to break it down to attain the task.

Relaxation techniques: In this, the children are taught inhibition methods like slow rhythmic movement or joint compression to control agitation and outburst of emotions. This helps in calming and imbibing relaxation measures in kids with special needs.

Art therapy: As the name goes by, it is a psychotherapeutic and expressive therapy approach that includes purposeful activities including arts, crafts and recreation for improving non-verbal and social communication by the child. It enables an autistic child to express and display her emotions, manage behavior, reduce stress, improve interpersonal interactions, create self-awareness and confidence. Read more about Art Based Therapy for autistic children how it heals.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This therapeutic approach has an advantage of not only being helpful for assessment but also for improving a child s cognition, attention span and understand behavioral patterns behind tantrums. Once a clear understanding is made, therapy can be fun for the child and coping skills by parents to handle their kids can be useful to handle or prevent a difficult situation.

Biofeedback: It is a therapeutic technique which aids in improving the ability of control over physiological processes with the use of instrumentation in autistic kids. With optimal levels of attainment of cognition, biofeedback might be useful to be aware of the voluntary and involuntary muscle contraction in autistic children and thus, help in tracking blood pressure levels, heart rate and brain activity. Here are 6 tips for parents to deal with autistic children.

Orthosis/Splinting: It involves assessment, as well as designing and fittings of customised orthotics (specially insoles), which are added to a child s body as a device for supporting a position, correction of deformities, strengthen weak muscles and also restore muscle function.

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