Treating Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is not about finding a cure; instead, behavioral therapy for autism is designed to help children develop the social, communication and self-regulatory behaviors necessary to thrive.
Behavioral therapy is often considered to be an intervention for unruly children, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. In reality, behavior therapy is employed throughout the field of psychology to treat a wide range of conditions for people of various ages. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) are two common forms of psychotherapy used to treat mental illnesses ranging from depression and anxiety to bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder.
When Should an Autistic Child Get Therapy?
For autistic children, behavior therapy provides the guidance and structure they need to build upon their strengths and develop the type of skills required to interact and engage with the world around them. Early childhood intervention is often the best choice for autistic children as the skills they develop now can help them easily integrate into the general population at school later on.
Popular Types of Behavioral Therapy for Autism
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is one of the most common types of autism behavior therapy. For more than 50 years, ABA has helped autistic children develop new skills by breaking them down into definable goals and using positive reinforcement. Rather than focusing solely on the child’s wants, ABA involves close observation and collaboration between caretakers to identify the skills that would most benefit a child to learn.
For example, a child with autism may struggle with tasks such as saying hello to his or her teacher or classmates when they arrive at school. An ABA therapist will take the necessary steps to work through that difficulty because being able to greet and exchange pleasantries with others is an important communication skill.
Another type of common therapy is Verbal Behavior Therapy. The purpose of this therapy is to help non-verbal autistic children learn how to communicate with others. These therapies are very intensive, sometimes spanning up to 40 hours per week. Although an extensive amount of time and effort is required, the end results are often rewarding as a child begins to socialize with others, form friendships and become more open to the world around them.
Children with ASD often experience different challenges at different times. However, with the proper behavioral therapy, many ASD children can tackle these issues on their way to having more fulfilling lives.