Our understanding of autism spectrum disorder and how to approach it has changed tremendously over the years. We now know that people who have neurodevelopmental differences like autism simply think and function a little differently than the rest of the population.
What Does an Autism Intervention Do?
While autism can’t be cured, certain thinking patterns and behaviors can be addressed to make life a little easier for the individual. While some interventions focus on changing undesirable behaviors, the most effective autism interventions try to help the individual learn and improve important life skills.
Types of Autism Interventions
Autism interventions may fall into one or more of the following categories:
These approaches focus on changing certain behaviors that might be seen as problematic, like stimming, meltdowns, unorthodox social behaviors, etc. The most common type of behavioral therapy is Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA).
These approaches improve developmental skills, like language or physical skills. Speech therapy and occupational therapy fall into this category. These types of therapies are often used in conjunction with other therapies.
These interventions are conducted in a classroom setting. Many educational approaches are based on the idea that people with autism thrive on consistency and visual learning. Teachers may be trained in a specific therapy type or the child’s therapist or parent might guide the teacher in implementation. For example, a teacher might write out daily routines and place them in clear sight or verbal instructions might be complemented with visual instructions or physical demonstrations.
Social-Relational approaches are founded on the idea that relationships and social bonds are critical when it comes to a child’s development. RDI® is based on a social-relational approach.
There are no medications that treat the core symptoms of autism, but some medications treat co-occurring symptoms, like self-harming behavior, anxiety, depression or trouble with concentration.
Psychological approaches like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help some people with co-occuring conditions like anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions.
How Do You Know if an Autism Intervention Is Effective?
How do you know if a specific autism intervention is effective? That depends on the goals of the individual (or in the case of a young child, the goals their parents have for them). We believe that a good quality of life is what’s most important and that building relationships eventually leads to skill development. That’s why the RDI® program focuses on helping individuals to build social and emotional bonds with their family members and the other people in their life.
The individual’s strengths, challenges and personality also play a role. Their intervention should build on their strengths, fill in their skill gaps and meet their unique needs.
When judging the effectiveness of a program, some questions to ask yourself might include:
- Does the individual seem happy in their current program? Do they seem like they’re having a good time? While not everything in life can be fun, something that they spend so much time doing should be enjoyable most of the time.
- Do they seem stressed out or upset before or after sessions? If someone dreads their therapy, it may never be effective.
- Are they actually learning or are they just performing to get a reward or avoid a punishment? Many behavioral therapies use concepts like reinforcement. This means that individuals often learn what the therapist wants them to do, but they don’t truly understand why they’re supposed to do it, and therefore can’t apply it to their daily life.
- Have you seen improvement in the way the individual handles stressors?
- Have they grown more interested in interacting with other people?
- Have they improved their communication skills? Remember, spoken language is not the only way to communicate. Gestures, writing and body language are also communication.
- Have they grown more interested in interacting with the world around them?
- Have they grown more interested in making decisions?
- Have they grown more interested in personal autonomy?
- Have they improved in specific problems they may have been experiencing, like aggression or anxiety?
RDI® Is a Different Type of Autism Intervention
Behavioral therapies like ABA are still the most popular interventions for autism, but they don’t treat the root of the issues many people with autism experience. ABA practices only teach someone that they should do something to make their therapist or parent happy – but not why they should do it for themself.
RDI® is often described as “the missing element” in the treatment of autism because instead of focusing on symptoms, the program activates the growth-seeking drive essential to addressing the challenges associated with autism.
RDI® puts the parent in control, but each parent is guided by their own RDI® Certified Consultant on how to teach their child to seek out and succeed in truly reciprocal relationships, which leads to improved motivation, communication, emotional regulation, executive functioning and more.
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