A parent’s worst nightmare can a diagnosis of Autism for their child.
Also known as ASD, Autism Spectrum Disorder effects one out of every one hundred and ten children. ASD is characterized by an array of neurodevelopment disorders; which result in impaired social functioning, communication impediments, repetitious behaviors and overall restricted development.
The terrifying part? The number of children diagnosed with ASD is growing—some sixty percent between 2002 and 2006.
The growth in ASD cases has become a pandemic of sorts in families and the medical community. All are looking for answers—to both prevent and treat.
Without a clear and concise understanding of autism, its causes and triggers, psychiatry and the medical community as a whole are left with psychotropic medications—to treat the symptoms, not the causes—coupled with horrendous medication side effects.
Take Hope. Psychology is making so much headway that The Autism Research Institute purports that “Autism is Treatable.”
The Autism Research Institute takes a biomedical approach to the treatment of Autism aimed at addressing the underlying problems that result in the symptomotology of ASD. The biomedical approach supported by the institute is a scientifically based, molecular-biological approach to treatment that looks at toxins, foods, allergies, as well as psychological and behaviorally based issues involved in the autistic diagnosis. This approach looks at “treating” a person diagnosed with autism instead of eliminating symptoms through the use of psychotropic medications.
The Autism Research Institute advocates the empirically validated Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) as a well-documented and effective teaching method and therapy for autistic children and caregivers. This method involves instructional therapy sessions in a one to one environment that focuses on educational tasks and social functioning skills. The method is outlined in Teaching Individuals with Developmental Delays: Basic Intervention Techniques by O. Ivar Lovaas. For those with limited verbal skills, the Rapid Prompting Method is encouraged.
The Lovaas Approach involves discrete and incidental teaching involving two or three hour therapy sessions. The sessions consists of short periods of structured time devoted to a task; typically three to five minutes in length followed by an equal amount of free play for the child. At the end of every hour of therapy or parent interaction, longer breaks are implemented for a period of ten to fifteen minutes. Therapy focuses on breaking skills down into small pieces; with the goal of ultimately teaching children how to learn in small increments in their natural environments.
It’s not a cure, but it is progress – and a beacon of hope-for families, children and adults that suffer from debilitating forms of Autism Spectrum Disorder.