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Treating Autism at Home

There are various sides to treating autism and they are all important.  The two most important are working with physicians and other medical professionals and educational professionals to treat autism on a continuous basis.  The other of the two is treating and working with autism at home. 

If you have a child with autism, it is important that you learn all you can about autism in general and about your child’s specific symptoms and situation so that you can care for them in the most effective and efficient way possible.  It is also important that you learn what you need to be able to take care of yourself, so that you can do a good job of taking care of your child. 

Taking care of yourself includes determining how much sleep and rest you need and trying to get as close to that as possible, eating healthy foods daily and making sure you are getting enough vitamins, minerals and protein regularly and trying to create some personal time during which you can read, exercise, visit with friends, go out for a cup of coffee or a meal or something else that you enjoy and that will take you away from being a caregiver, even if only for an hour.  There are respite services available, or you may be able to ask a close friend or family member to cover for you for a short time.  The better condition you are in, the better you will be able to care for your child.  In most cases reducing family stress helps a child dealing with autism function better.

When dealing with your child’s autism, find out about their educational rights.  According to the federal government, all children have the right to an education including those with disabilities under which autism is included.  In addition to federal rights, there are often state and local types of assistance for children with autism, and this assistance can include various forms of treatment, education and other benefits.

Treating your child’s autism at home goes hand in hand with any other treatment they are receiving.  The more you learn about treatment and assistance for them as well as taking care of yourself, the more successful you – and they – will be.

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Alternative Communication for Child With Autism

Picture Exchange Communication System is a type of augmentative and alternative communication technique where individuals with little or no verbal ability learn to communicate using picture cards. Children use these pictures to “vocalize” a desire, observation, or feeling. These pictures can be purchased in a manualized book, or they can be made at home using images from newspapers, magazines or other books. Since some children with autism tend to learn visually, this type of communication technique has been shown to be effective at improving independent communication skills, leading in some cases to gains in spoken language.

Images may be obtained through magazines, photos, or other media. The first thing to do is for the parent to decide which images would be most motivating for the child. Cards are then created with those images, images may be obtained through magazines, photos, or other media. The parent will help their child discover that, by handing over the card, they can get the desired object. The next thing would be to move farther away from the child when showing the picture, so that the child must actually come over and hand the card to the parent to get what they want. This process engages the child’s ability to seek and obtain another person’s attention. In this way, a full vocabulary and methods for using these new words are taught to the child with autism.

After the child develops the ability to do this, the parent would begin giving the child more than one image so that they must decide which to use when requesting an item. The parent would continue to give the child additional cards as they can handle them. This process helps the child’s ‘vocabulary’ increases. Over time, the child may develop the ability to use sentences. Throughout the process, which may take weeks, months or years, the parent gives constant feedback to the child. It is thought that by allowing children to express themselves non-verbally, the children are less frustrated and non-desirable behavior including tantrums is reduced.

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Floortime for Child With Autism

Floortime was developed by child psychiatrist Stanley Greenspan. It is a treatment method and a philosophy for interacting with children that have autism. It is based on the premise that the child can increase and build a larger circle of interaction with an adult who meets the child at his current developmental level and who builds on the child’s particular strengths.

The idea of Floortime is to move the child through the six basic developmental milestones that must be mastered for emotional and intellectual growth. The six basic developmental milestones were described by Greenspan as: self regulation and interest in the world; intimacy or a special love for the world of human relations; two-way communication; complex communication; emotional ideas; and emotional thinking. A child with autism has trouble moving naturally through these milestones because of sensory over or under reactions, processing difficulties, and/or poor control of physical responses. 

What needs to happen with Floortime is for the parent to engage the child at a level the child currently enjoys, enters the child’s activities, and follows the child’s lead. From a mutually shared engagement, the parent is instructed how to move the child toward more increasingly complex interactions, a process known as “opening and closing circles of communication.” Floortime does not separate and focus on speech, motor, or cognitive skills but rather addresses these areas through a synthesized emphasis on emotional development. The intervention is called Floortime because the parent gets down on the floor with the child to engage him at his level.

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New England Center for Children

The New England Center for Children is a school for children with autism, located in Southborough, Massachusetts. They are a private, nonprofit autism education center dedicated to bringing out human potential and creating productive lives for children with autism. There mission is, “Providing state-of-the-art autism education and individualized treatment for children with autism spectrum disorder, pervasive developmental disorder (PDD), and Asperger’s Syndrome.”

The NECC is not just a school, but they are internationally recognized as a leader of autism research with nearly three decades of experience. Their research focuses on the basic learning processes of children with autism, teaching techniques for children with severe learning problems, managing challenging behavior, communication training strategies, early intervention practices, and the generalization and maintenance of treatment gains.

At the school, children are engaged in learning new behaviors and helped to change disruptive or harmful ones, by constant positive reinforcement. The curriculum at the NECC ranges from the most basic language and social skills to academics and vocational training. “We plug them into that wherever they’re at,” says Rebecca MacDonald, PhD, director of the preschool program, which includes kids aged 3 to 7.

MacDonald is studying what is called “joint attention,” an important early step in relating to others. If you were to turn and look at something, a typical child observing you would probably turn to look at it, too. A child with autism would not notice. “It’s one of the hallmarks of autism,” MacDonald tells WebMD. “They tend not to care what you are looking at or thinking.”

The NECC is dedicated to help children with autism and other developmental disabilities reach their full potential. The goal of their treatment research is to help chidren with autism increase their abilities to function and communicate successfully with as much independence as possible.

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Sensory Integration Therapy

The concept of sensory integration therapy is based on research in the areas of neuroscience, developmental psychology, occupational therapy, and education. Research suggests that sensory information received from the environment is critical. The interactions between a child and his environment shapes the brain and influences learning.

An increasingly amount of parents of children with autism are turning to sensory integration treatment to help their children.  A new study from Temple University researchers, presented at the American Occupational Therapy Association’s 2008 conference, found that children with autism who underwent sensory integration therapy exhibited fewer autism mannerisms compared to children who received standard treatments. Such mannerisms, including repetitive hand movements or actions, making noises, jumping or having highly restricted interests, often interfere with paying attention and learning.

Children receiving sensory integration therapy typically participate in sensory-based activities to enable them to better regulate their behavioral responses to sensations and situations that they find disturbing or painful. A child who is oversensitive to light touch may enjoy rolling and playing in a giant foam pillow, after which he might be more able to calmly explore, touch and play with other textures. This in turn can make self-care such as dressing and washing and classroom activities that require touch more manageable.

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Vitamin Therapy for Autism

One treatment for autism is vitamin therapy. While no patient has been cured with the vitamin therapy, there have been many instances where remarkable improvement has been achieved.

Dimethylglycine (DMG), is a food substance and is most often used vitamin therapy. Reports from parents giving their child DMG indicate improvements in the areas of speech, eye contact, social behavior, and attention span. Studies have shown that vitamin B6 may help control hyperactivity, and improve overall behavior. Vitamin C has been shown to have a calming effect on behavior in humans. 

Although improvements vary considerably among children with autism, other possible improvements that have been seen are speech improvements, improved sleeping patterns, lessened irritability, increased attention span, decrease in self stimulation, and overall improvement in general health.

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A Clean Room to Treat Autism?

Doctors at the Children’s Institute in Pittsburgh are proposing to house children with autism for weeks at a time in a pollutant-free “clean room,” in an attempt to detoxify their bodies. Although no cause for autism has been found some doctors believe it is caused in part by environmental factors, including air and food-borne chemicals.

Scott Faber is a pediatrician at the Children’s Institute. He has several hundred patients with autism and a waiting list six months long. He is one of the believers in toxic causes and the institute is trying to back him with a multimillion dollar test of this theory. The pediatric “clean room” plan would be the first of its kind in a mainstream American hospital environment.

At the beginning, the plan would be to have severe cases of children with autism that have not responded to other treatments. They would stay six to 12 weeks, allowing an estimated four to six children to be treated per year. Furniture, paints, toys and floor coverings would be designed to be toxin-free, and food, clothing and water organic and clean. Doctors would seek to rid patients’ bodies of chemicals and boost their immune systems through natural means such as nutritional supplements and dietary changes. After leaving, spaces at each patient’s home would be equipped with lower-level clean technology, such as ultraviolet lights and air filters, and children would continue with special diets.

Basically, it would be pushing a “reset” button on the child’s body, with the hope of wiping any symptoms away. “What we would like to do is have kids live in this wonderful environment where they are exposed to almost none of the Industrial Revolution. And we wonder, if the chemicals come out and the heavy metals come out, will the children start improving?” Faber said.

“We’re not saying this is the full cause” of autism and related illnesses, Faber said. “Obviously there are multiple causes, and there are going to be found many genetic causes, many environmental causes and many genetic-environmental interactions. But we wonder — we speculate — that it’s possible if we have children living in a unique environment that has not (previously) been created scientifically that we can make a difference.”

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Picture Exchange Communication Systems

Nothing can be more frustrating to a parent than the lack of ability to communicate with your child. Our society is built on the idea and the necessity of communicating with all of those around you, without this vital ability you can fade away and struggle to find a place in the world. Parents of children with autism will struggle to find the right way to communicate and find just a few ways to alter this struggle. One way to alter it is to have the child with autism treated with Picture Exchange Communication Systems.

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Diet (Nutrition) Therapy

Who isn’t affected by what they eat in some way, shape or form? If you eat too big of a lunch you may be worthless the rest of the day and if you don’t eat at all you won’t be good for much either. Some can’t eat dairy and some can’t eat fruit, whatever the case may be if you eat the wrong thing it will affect you in a negative manner. It is in this spirit that many medical professionals believe it is possible to overcome some symptoms of autism by working on the individual with autism’s dieting habits.

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TEACHH: Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children

The medical world loves its acronyms regardless of if they are misspelled or not! In spite of this fact, you should ignore that TEACHH is spelled wrong and instead train your mind to drop the last H and understand that this treatment is all about teaching the child techniques to make their world easier. With this treatment you won’t be adapting the child to the world; you will be adapting the world to the child. Instead of trying to force the child with autism to understand how the world works, you will teach the child how to function in the world.

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