By Shahneel Ahmed

Although there is no known cure for autism, there are treatment and educational approaches that can maximize one’s ability to function and support development and learning. Early intervention, such as during preschool years, can help an autistic child learn crucial social, communication, functional, and behavioral skills. It is important to note that different treatments and therapies may work for different people. There is no single treatment or therapy that will be effective for every person with autism.

One treatment option includes behavior and communication therapies. Here, the range of social, language, and behavioral difficulties associated with autism are addressed. Children are taught how to act in social situations and/or how to communicate effectively with others. This treatment may focus on reducing problem behaviors and teaching new socialskills. An example of one such behavioral therapy is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, ABA is a treatment approach that utilizes principles of learning theory to bring about meaningful and positive change in behavior. The techniques involved help build a variety of skills, such as self-control, self-monitoring, and communication, and help to generalize these skills to other situations through a reward-based motivation system. These techniques can be used in both a structured environment, such as a classroom, and an unstructured environment, such as at home.

There are also educational therapies, where a team of specialists lead a variety of activities to improve communication and behavior. Family therapies have also proven to be helpful. Parents, siblings, and other family members can interact with autistic children to promote social interaction skills and manage problematic behaviors.

Furthermore, there is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that combines cognitive and behavioral learning principles to encourage desired behaviors. CBT is used to help autistic individuals learn how to regulate emotions and control impulses. Also, some medications may alleviate certain behavioral symptoms of autism and make other treatments more effective.

Lastly, support is always beneficial. The National Autism Association, Autism Science Foundation, Autism Society, and many other organizations provide support groups, learning/training material for parents and siblings, and other resources to improve the lives of everyone who is affected by autism.

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