Autism therapies and some psychiatric treatment methods can be applied to individuals with autism apart from special education that individuals with autism receive. Even though different forms of therapy help individuals on the spectrum tremendously, it has to be kept in mind that the use of different therapy and treatment methods does not reduce the need for special education. Therefore, no matter what type of therapy or treatment they receive, individuals with autism must first and foremost receive special education.
There is no experimental research showing that some of these therapy and treatment methods have positive effects on individuals with autism, or experimental studies have shown that this method does not have any positive effect on individuals with autism. There are some helpful autism therapies listed below. Thus, in the case of your child or your family member with autism’s need, you or your experts can choose one or more.
Sensory Integration Therapy
Sensory integration therapy assumes that there are some problems in the ability to perceive, process, and make sense of the information provided by the sense organs in individuals with autism. Therefore, it aims to increase mental functions and reduce behavioral problems by eliminating these problems and improving sensory integration ability. Sensory integration activities are usually carried out by occupational therapists. These activities include daily activities such as brushing the body, squeezing knees and elbows, swinging in a hammock, etc. Also, there are practices called sensory diets. An example of a sensory diet is situations that put pressure on the body, such as wearing body stockings or a weighted vest.
Auditory Integration Therapy
At the beginning of the auditory integration therapy, it is determined to which frequencies the individual with autism is extremely sensitive. During the therapy sessions, the music that is purified from these frequencies is played to the individual through headphones. There are researches that this method reduces hypersensitivity and behavioral problems related to some sounds, as well as that it does not work or increases behavioral problems.
In art therapy, plastic arts such as painting, ceramics, sculpture, etc., are aimed to provide emotional relaxation of the individual by mediating the individual’s self-expression. In other words, art therapy tries to ensure that the feelings and thoughts of the individual on the autism spectrum, which cannot be expressed in other ways, are revealed through artistic productions.
The main purpose of any therapy method under the umbrella of art is to create a safe and non-judgmental environment for the aesthetic aspect to be experienced and revealed. The nature of artistic activity includes actively dealing with an object, taking risks, and expressing oneself. Cognitive development of shapes and volume while making art; colors, smells, and textures to the senses; the overall process is assumed to benefit physical coordination. Thus, it is expected to develop both aesthetic awareness and various skills. It is hoped that art will open the way of communication by encouraging the person with autism.
The aim of drama therapy is to contribute to the emotional development and self-expression of people by using activities such as role-playing, storytelling, etc. in the performing arts. During drama therapy, inappropriate behaviors are also tried to be transformed into various creative movements. One of the expected benefits of therapy is to help the individual reach their creative capacity. With some game methods, it is tried to develop relationships with people by using objects as tools.
Therapy with Dolphins
Dolphin therapy, also known as dolphin interaction therapy, is widely used in many countries, especially in the USA, Israel, Russia, and Mexico. The number of therapy centers opened for this purpose is increasing rapidly. In these centers, individuals with autism interact with dolphins first from the pier and then into the water. There are various studies that show that therapy with dolphins has positive effects on individuals from various disability groups, and some of them were conducted as experimental research. However, experts agree that there are serious methodological errors in all of these studies. Therefore, there is a predominant opinion in scientific circles that there is no reliable experimental research finding showing the positive effects of therapy with dolphins on individuals with autism.
Horse Therapy (Equinotherapy)
Equinotherapy is widely used in many countries with individuals from various disability groups. The main goal of horse riding therapy is not to provide riding skills, but to benefit from the sensory and motor inputs of horseback riding. The most common disability group to which horseback riding therapy is directed is individuals with cerebral palsy. On the other hand, equinotherapy studies conducted with individuals with autism are also rapidly becoming widespread. However, almost none of the published studies included individuals with autism. The results of studies conducted with individuals with cerebral palsy show that positive effects are seen in some motor skills. However, it is a fact that more controlled experimental studies are needed.
Music And Dance Therapy
Music therapy is a therapy method applied by certified therapists through activities of singing together, playing instruments, and accompanying music with dance. The benefits expected from music therapy in individuals with autism can be listed as follows:
- Emotional bonding: The activities included in music therapy are expected to help the individual develop emotional bonds with the therapist and others.
- Increasing the use of verbal and bodily language: Music is expected to increase communication requests.
- Reducing behavioral problems: Visual, tactile, and auditory stimuli reach the individual together during instrument use and dance. It is thought that this stimulation may increase the fine and gross motor development of the individual, facilitate self-awareness and reduce inappropriate behaviors.
- Maintaining a sense of achievement: Playing an instrument, singing or dancing can provide an individual with a sense of achievement.
Occupational therapists conduct various therapies in order to improve the daily living skills, social skills, and adaptive behaviors of children with autism and to reduce behavioral problems. The most common method that occupational therapists apply to children with autism is sensory integration therapy.
Speech-language therapists use various therapies to improve language and communication skills in children with autism. The main goal of these therapies is to provide children with autism with communication skills that will enable them to communicate in all environments. For this purpose, it is tried to ensure that they better understand the conversations addressed to them, express themselves more clearly, and gain the skills to initiate and maintain a conversation. There are many different methods that language-speech therapists frequently use with children with autism. It depends on the child’s situation and the expert’s preferences.
Speech has a very important place in human life, and most people are so used to it that they cannot imagine what the world would be like without speaking and communication. Thanks to our ability to talk, we can communicate with other people and improve our relationships, express what we want, and share our ideas.
Communicating begins long before learning to speak. In the first months of their lives, babies listen to the sounds their mothers make, look at their facial expressions when they speak, and try to imitate them. This exchange of smiles and voices between the baby and his mother is actually the first communication established by the baby, even though no meaningful words are said. When the baby reaches the age of one, he starts to say his first meaningful words and in time, he becomes able to form sentences by combining these words.
Language development is different and relatively slow in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Due to the perceptual differences brought about by autism, children show more interest in the sounds of objects and animals rather than the sounds of people. They are distracted and often seem not to hear what people are saying. They say their first meaningful words later than other children and often these words are unusual.
Ongoing research has proven that early intervention can make a huge difference in the language development of children with autism. In particular, it has been observed that families who motivate, encourage, and support their children with autism can make a huge difference in the language and social development of their children. The Hanen technique, on the other hand, is a method that tells the families of children with autism how they can make this developmental difference.
Hanen Method in Developing Speech and Communication Skills of Children With Autism
In 1975, the Hanen Center which is located in Canada developed a method for families of children with autism to participate more effectively in their child’s early language development. Thanks to this method, families, caregivers, language and speech therapists have been able to make a great contribution to the best possible communication skills of children with autism. In order to meet the special needs of children with autism spectrum disorder, Hanen has developed a special method based on 3 basic principles:
- The key role of parenting: Being the most important element in a child’s life, the family should also play a primary role in the child’s speech therapy.
- The importance of starting early: The earlier the child starts speech therapy, the better the results.
- The power of “Every Day”: Children cannot learn to communicate simply by being “taught”. In order to develop communication skills, it is necessary to be a participant in the daily conversations and activities of his family and other adults the child knows.
Hanen Technique for Families of Children with Autism: More Than Words Program
More Than Words is a program specially developed for families of children with autism. Addressing the special needs of children with autism, this program provides their families with the tools, strategies, and support needed to reach their maximum communication potential. There are three main goals to be achieved in this program:
- Advanced social skills
- Better perception of language and spoken
- Taking an active part in conversations and activities
Here are some of the things you can learn in the More Than Words Program:
- How can your child learn better and what motivates him/her to communicate better?
- What are the factors that cause your child’s certain behaviors and what can be done to increase or decrease these behaviors?
- How can you use the information you have acquired to set realistic goals for your child?
- What can you do to make your interactions with your child longer-lasting and meaningful?
- How should pictures and photographs be used to help your child’s perception?
- How should you speak so that your child can understand you?
- How can you implement strategies that will improve your child’s play skills?
- How can you help your child make friends?
Benefits of the Hanen Program
The More Than Words Hanen Program focuses on the natural and everyday interactions between you and your child. Through this program, you will learn how you can use everyday activities such as mealtime, playtime, and bathing to improve your child’s linguistic and social skills.
Hanen is a very easy and enjoyable program to understand and implement. With this method, you will have the opportunity to practice and discuss each strategy you have learned so that the changes made and learned are not lost or forgotten.
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