Complementary Therapies

Complementary Therapies

Complementary therapy generally refers to interventions that “complement” more traditional therapies (such as ABA therapies) and may be used alongside them.

One of the main areas affected by autism is the child’s ability to communicate. PECS helps get basic language underway and helps provide a way of communicating for children who do not talk. PECS uses ABA-based methods to teach children to exchange a picture for something they want, such as an item or activity. This approach enables a child with autism to communicate more easily. As a result, the child will experience less frustration and demonstrate fewer problem behaviors.

Communication challenges are at the heart of an autism spectrum diagnosis and may contribute to behavior problems, thus a quality intervention program should include methods to improve communication Including a speech/language pathologist (SLP) on your child’s team may or may not be necessary to help improve his or her communication skills. Some speech therapists who work with children with autism incorporate the principles of ABA into their practice to encourage positive behavior and help the children develop increasingly greater communication skills. Whichever approach is chosen, a child’s progress in language acquisition should be measured with a standardized assessment. The Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills (ABLLS) is one such tool. The ABLLS is an assessment, curriculum guide, and skills tracking system used for children with autism. The ABLLS allows therapists and teachers to carefully track a child’s specific task objectives.

See: Scope of Practice for SLTs, according to the American Speech-Language Association

Children with autism may benefit from working with a registered/licensed occupational therapist (OTR/L). An occupational therapist is a trained and licensed healthcare professional who collaborates with the family, the individual (when appropriate), and the intervention team to set intervention goals in the areas of activities of daily living (e.g. dressing, self-care), instrumental activities of daily living (e.g. use of a computer, care of personal belongings), education, work, play, leisure, and social participation. The OTR/L evaluates performance to understand what interferes with desired performance of the skill and uses that information to build an individually tailored treatment plan. An OTR/L is trained in various intervention approaches and may provide direct services to an individual or serve consultatively. Regardless, they should always work closely with other members of the treatment team.

Learn more about how OT can help your child with autism: American Occupational Therapy Association

Children with autism may have challenges with physical coordination and gross motor skills and therefore they may not be as physically active as typically developing children. Their limited ability may lead to limited interest in physical activities with peers which can reduce opportunities to engage in fun interactions with other children, which can be valuable opportunities to learn and develop skills.  Further, if a child’s coordination is very impaired safety may be a primary concern.  A physical therapist will design a regimen that will help children with autism develop muscle strength and physical fitness while at the same time addressing issues related to gross motor coordination and skills.

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