Autism Spectrum Disorder: Treating ASD in Children and Teens

February 13, 2023

By Vanessa GonzalezAutism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that impairs one's ability to interact with others, how one communicates, how one learns, and ultimately how one behaves. ASD looks differently depending on the individual, meaning each person with ASD has different strengths and challenges, which is why it's considered a spectrum.Thus, those with ASD also have unique treatment needs. In the past, many people with ASD were placed in specific institutions das professionals were less educated about autism than they are today. Most treatment plans are created to reduce symptoms and increase daily functioning. While there is no known cure for ASD, with appropriate treatment, children on the autism spectrum can lessen disruptive behavior and learn skills for greater independence and improve their daily living.ASD includes a range of behavioral symptoms.Two features of ASD are:

  • Difficulty in social situations and interpersonal communication
  • Repetitive behaviors, interests, and activities.

Common signs of ASD:

Social situations and Interpersonal Communication

  • Poor eye contact and lack of facial expression – flat expression
  • Abnormal tone and rhythm of speech
  • Doesn’t speak – or delayed speech
  • Prefers to be alone and stays to self
  • Doesn’t respond to name or appears not to hear someone talking to them
  • Difficulty maintaining conversation
  • Unaware of other’s feelings
  • Difficulty understanding simple and clear instructions
  • Difficulty understanding nonverbal cues

Patterns of behavior

  • Rocking movements or hand flapping
  • Biting or hand banging
  • Is stressed when specific routines are interrupted
  • Sensitive to light sound and touch
  • Doesn’t engage in imaginative play
  • Fixates on an object or activity – with abnormal intensity
  • Has specific food preferences – refuses food with a specific texture.

CausesAutism spectrum disorder has no single cause and due to the complexity of each individual case, However, both environmental and genetic factors both play an influence. It may be caused by genetic factors such as Rett syndrome or fragile X syndrome. Some genetic mutations may be inherited or can occur in the individual. Further research goes into other factors such as viral infections, air pollutants, or pregnancy factors.Types of TreatmentsThere are many treatments, but they may be used simultaneously depending on the individual. Below are some approaches to treatment as mentioned by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Behavioral – focuses on changing behavior by understanding what happens before and following the specific behavior. A commonly utilized behavioral treatment is Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), which encourages the goal behavior and discourages unwanted behavior.
  • Developmental – this approach is often combined with behavioral approaches. It focuses on skills such as language, physical skills, and interconnected abilities. A standard therapy used for the developmental approach is Speech and Language Therapy. Speech and Language therapy is used to improve one's speech and language. Occupational therapy is another developmental approach that teaches the individual how to eat, dress, bathe, communicate, and relate to others to live as independently as possible.
  • Educational – these treatments are given in a classroom setting. Therefore, teachers will adjust and arrange the classroom to improve academic success.
  • Social-Relational – teaches the individual to communicate more effectively and strengthen relational skills such as listening, learning to understand social situations, and practicing these skills in a social environment.
  • Pharmacological – there is no medicine to treat ASD. However, there is medication to reduce symptomology and co-occurring disorders.
  • Psychological – this approach is primarily used with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to cope with anxiety, depression, and other co-occurring symptoms.

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