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Exploring Autism Treatments: Behavioural to Nutritional

Author: Warren Gouin

Last Updated

30 May 2023
Autism Treatments
Autism is like a puzzle with no clear treatment that suits everyone. Each child is different, and what works for one may not work for another. But, with the right treatments and therapies, parents can help their children on the path to success.
 
As a parent of an autistic child, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to find the right treatments and therapies. What works for one child may not work for another, and it can be hard to know where to start.
 
In this article, I will talk about the different types of treatments and therapies for autism. I will also give you some tips to find the best ones for you.
 
If you're wondering what you can do at home explore the post -  Autism therapy at home.
 

The Signs And Symptoms Of Autism Help Determine Treatments.

As a parent, understanding the signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) plays an important role in determining the best way to treat it. Knowing what to look for can help you and your child's healthcare team establish a course of action that is tailored to their needs.
 
 
Having a deeper understanding of ASD enables us to recognise potential triggers that can cause our children stress, anxiety or other issues. With this knowledge, we can then develop methods of support and prevention. These may include lifestyle changes, natural therapies, or diet changes.
 
It's not easy being a caregiver - particularly when it comes to caring for someone on the autism spectrum. But by recognising key signs and symptoms of ASD, we are better equipped to provide our children with the knowledge and resources they need to lead happy and fulfilling lives.
 
You may find it helpful to take a deep dive into the signs and symptoms of autism using this post -  Symptoms of Autism.  This may help you better explore treatments.
 
As parents, it can be difficult to understand what signs and symptoms of autism to look for. That's why we need to stay in close communication with our child's healthcare team. They are there to provide expertise and help identify any potential issues, so your child gets the attention they deserve. With experience comes knowledge, and they may be able to diagnose certain medical conditions as well as put together a treatment plan.
 
It's critical that we take all signs and symptoms seriously and act on them.  These include the ones that we feel are important, but the healthcare team may miss or don't think are important.  We need to use our own observation skills as well, rather than just relying on our healthcare team.  We are with our children every day, and often notice important things that experts miss. 
 
 It can be easy to ignore subtle signs of autism, such as toe walking and noise sensitivities.  But this doesn't mean they don't matter or shouldn't be taken into account when making treatment plans.  We should consider adding therapies specifically designed for noise sensitivities or persistent toe walking if needed, even if our healthcare team doesn't suggest them.  
 
Other examples of symptoms that can be missed by our healthcare team are constipation and diarrhoea. Autism sufferers may experience these symptoms more than those who are not on the spectrum, yet they are often ignored. We were told that gut health wasn't relevant to our son's condition. However, we proved them wrong. Improving his diet was one of the first treatments we added, and it made an incredible impact. It inspired us to further customise his dietary needs, which led to more improvements.
 
Once the signs and symptoms of autism have been identified, the next step is to explore the different types of treatments available.
 

Types Of Treatments For ASD

There are a number of different approaches that can help. It's important to note that each individual's treatment plan should be tailored to their specific needs. Let's take a look at some of the different types of treatments for ASD.
 
First, there are behavioural treatments such as Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). This type of treatment focuses on changing behaviours through positive reinforcement. It can be used to help individuals improve their language skills, daily activities, and social behaviours, as well as reduce unusual behaviours.
 
Social skills training is another type of treatment that can help individuals with ASD. This type of therapy focuses on teaching social skills, such as how to make friends, start conversations, and interact in group settings.
 
Occupational therapy is also commonly used for individuals with ASD. This type of therapy can help to improve coordination and motor skills, as well as sensory processing and daily living skills.
 
There are also a number of alternative therapies that can be used to help individuals with autism, such as music therapy and art therapy. These can help to improve communication and social skills, as well as reduce anxiety and depression.
 
Dietary improvements and integrative medicine strategies are becoming very popular for treating autism. These approaches focus on improving overall health and wellness, as well as reducing symptoms of autism. 
 
Integrating primitive reflexes is another type of treatment that can be used to help individuals with autism. This approach focuses on re-integrating reflexes that are not present or have been inhibited due to neurological issues.
 
As you can see, there are a number of different treatment options available for individuals with ASD. It's important to work with health care providers to determine the best approach for your individual needs. With the right treatment plan, you can help your loved one manage the signs and symptoms of autism and live a more fulfilling life.
 
Let's now take a look at some of the different approaches that can help manage the symptoms of autism.
 

Behavioural Approaches To Manage Symptoms Of Autism

Behavioural approaches can be incredibly effective for treating autism. From helping to improve communication to minimising core symptoms, behavioural approaches can have a positive effect on a child's development. It's important to remember that these treatments are tailored to each individual, and they can take many different forms.
 
Behavioural approaches can be a series of steps that help to create positive behaviour. For example, a child may learn how to respond to social interactions by first practising the desired behaviour in a safe and comfortable setting. This could involve using visual aids to help them recognise and understand social cues.
 
Behavioural treatments can also involve teaching a child how to regulate their emotions and how to cope with stressful situations. They can help to reduce challenging behaviours, such as repetitive movements and self-injury, and can help to build a child's confidence and self-esteem.
 
Applied Behavoural Analysis can be effective in addressing other developmental delays and conditions that can be associated with autism. This could include setting up an individualised education plan or helping to improve a child's communication skills.
 
By addressing a child's individual needs, behavioural treatments can help to maximise their potential and help them to live a fulfilling and independent life. With personalised interventions and ongoing support, behavioural approaches can be incredibly effective in helping children on the autism spectrum.
 

Social Skills Training

Another way to help children with autism spectrum disorder is through social skills training. This approach is focused on improving daily functioning and helping individuals with autism develop the skills to interact with others. It also can be used in combination with other treatments, such as psychological therapies.
 
Social skills training can be provided by healthcare providers, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and other mental health professionals. It can also be incorporated into educational programs, such as those designed for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
 
Here are a few aspects of social skills training:
  • It can involve role-playing activities to help people with autism learn appropriate behaviours in different situations.
  • It can involve teaching strategies to help with communication, social interactions, and problem-solving.
  • It can involve instruction in basic life skills, such as grooming, hygiene, and self-care.
Social skills training is a vital part of an autism treatment plan. It helps people with autism interact better and improve communication. Healthcare providers can use this approach to give their patients the skills they need to succeed in life.
 
With the right support and guidance, people with autism can learn the skills they need to lead happy and fulfilling lives. Moving forward, the next step is to explore psychological therapies, which can help to further support individuals on the autism spectrum.
 

Psychological Therapies.

Psychological therapies play an important role in autism. Not only for the children and adults with autism, but parents too! I don't have to tell you how difficult it can be parenting a child on the spectrum. Having support for yourself is important as well.
 
This type of treatment helps individuals with autism to better understand their own emotions and learn how to build relationships with others. Through psychological therapies, people with autism can learn how to better manage stress, regulate their moods, and understand the emotions of those around them.
 
Psychological therapies usually involve teaching people to better recognise and understand facial expressions, body language, and other nonverbal communication used in socialising. They may also focus on helping manage mental disorders like depression, anxiety, or OCD.
 
Psychological therapies are just one of many treatment options available for autism. To further explore the range of treatments, let's now take a look at complementary and alternative treatments.
 

Occupational Therapy.

Occupational therapy can be an incredibly effective treatment, and it focuses on helping individuals with disabilities to engage in daily activities as independently as possible. It also helps develop core strength that leads to increased success in everyday tasks such as self-care, schoolwork and leisure activities.
 
Occupational therapists have expertise in evaluating movement skills, behaviour management strategies and overall functional performance within all areas of life. They typically use sensory integration techniques to help students become more aware of how their bodies move and respond to external stimuli. Through this awareness the child learns how to better regulate themselves, so they can participate more confidently in day-to-day activities.
 
Occupational therapy can provide tremendous benefits. It not only provides children with needed structure but teaches them important skills that are crucial for successful participation in society. With the right intervention plan tailored specifically for the individual's needs, occupational therapists can create meaningful change that supports long-term growth and development.
 
I recommend finding an occupational therapist that is qualified in the field of primitive reflexes.  This enables the therapist to more positively integrate the child's nervous system, strength and movement.
 
Now we move to a therapy that often goes together with occupational therapy, which is speech pathology.  There's sometimes some overlap between occupational therapy and speech pathology, and it's important to choose the combination wisely.  This ensures a nice balance between the therapies.
 

Speech Pathology.

Speech pathology can also help children with autism to develop communication and how to more effectively connect with others through play. Through play-based therapy, children learn how to interact with others in a meaningful way. They learn how to take turns, share and cooperate, as well as how to express their feelings and needs. Speech pathologists can also provide instruction on appropriate behaviours for different situations, such as how to respond when someone is angry or sad. This helps children understand the emotions of those around them and teaches them how to appropriately react in various scenarios.
 
Additionally, speech pathologists can help children with autism develop problem-solving skills by teaching them strategies for dealing with difficult situations. They can also provide support for families by offering advice on how best to communicate with their child and manage challenging behaviours. With the right intervention plan tailored specifically for the individual's needs, speech pathologists can create meaningful change that supports long-term growth and development.
 
A skilled speech pathologist can progress to help your child with articulation once they have developed some basic skills in communication and connecting with people. 
 

Complementary And Alternative Treatments.

As a fellow parent, I can empathise with the desire to explore all possible options for our children on the autism spectrum and the struggle to find treatments that make a meaningful change.  All too often, we are limited in what therapies we can consider due to preconceived assumptions and advice from medical professionals.  With that in mind, limiting therapies that we consider to use for our child is not wise.
 
We often look to our team of experts to suggest therapies. These experts are experts in their own field, however they are not experts in everything that autism is. Autism is broader than psychology or occupational therapy. It's broader than ABA. What can be disappointing to me is that experts suggest the therapy that they are expert in, or have affiliation with only. Those therapies are important, but it's concerning that they guide parents off the path of complementary and alternative therapies. Parents are even guided away from basic health promoting ideas such as a healthy diet.
 
As parents, we have the right to seek out and explore complementary and alternative treatments which may help our children cope with the challenges of autism.  These therapies provide avenues through which we can enhance traditional therapies.
 
Of course, talking with your doctor or specialist regarding treatment decisions is an important step in this process as well. We can use this wealth of knowledge, as well as our own research and open-mindedness, to look at other possible treatments, such as healthy habits and natural therapies for ourselves and those around us.
 
These treatments can provide additional support for those with autism. Additional therapies and strategies can help to provide a more holistic approach to autism care. Children become healthier, more comfortable, more able to concentrate and better able to participate in traditional therapies. They can produce lasting effects that enhance the results of other therapies.
 
A common and obvious example is  gut health.  If your child has obvious gut discomfort, such as constipation and diarrhoea, why not take steps to improve gut health?  Our son had chronic diarrhoea when he was diagnosed with autism.  Our medical team suggested that this was irrelevant to his autism and no action was required to improve his gut health.  Thankfully we decided to explore ways to help his gut.  Improving his gut health had such a profound positive effect on his autism.  It proved the importance of a healthy diet for improving his life.
 
Poor gut health often contributes to high inflammation.  Not just in the gut, but throughout the body, including the brain.
 
There's growing evidence that suggests that mental disorders are difficult to resolve when the body is inflamed.   Inflammation puts the body, brain and nervous on edge.  When the body has a persistent stress signal, it's no wonder challenges such as anxiety and depression are more difficult to resolve. 
 
I believe it's the same for Autism.  There are many cases of children exceeding expectations when they improve health, reduce inflammation and remove toxins.  That's why I encourage parents to strive to improve health as a way for their child to respond better to other therapies.  With this in mind, improving health is a truly complementary strategy that enhances the other chosen therapies.
 
When it comes to treating autism, the low inflammatory and nutrient-dense diet can be a game changer. It's like an elixir of health that helps manage symptoms effectively without any side effects. A diet full of quality nutrient rich foods is essential for good gut health in people with autism. These foods reduce inflammation in both body and brain while providing several other health benefits too.
 
An overall healthy lifestyle, including getting enough sleep, reducing environmental exposure to toxins, and getting regular physical activity, will all help to reduce autism symptoms.  
 
For more information with real world ideas to implement to improve health,  please visit this post.  It's important to note that I don't encourage supplementation without proper testing and advice from a healthcare professional.  Searching the internet and stabbing in the dark can waste a lot of money and can have varying results.  The wrong supplement at the wrong time can make things worse.
 
Primitive reflex therapy is an alternative treatment for autism. It works by making people's primitive reflexes work better which helps their physical and mental health.  It may even help children overcome persistent  toe walking.
 
Primitive reflex integration is an important step in treating autism spectrum disorder.  These treatments involve stimulating the person’s nervous system in order to help them process information more effectively.  This helps establish a connection between their brain and body, so they can better interact with their environment. I've seen how this type of therapy has helped my own child overcome some of his challenges relating to his ASD diagnosis.
 
In addition to helping children improve physical coordination, balance and motor skills, primitive reflex integration also helps children on the autism spectrum improve communication skills.
 
There are many other complementary and alternative therapies. Some of them include;
  • Music therapy.  Music therapy can help to improve communication, social skills, and motor skills. It can also be used to reduce anxiety and stress.
  • Art therapy.  Art therapy can help children with autism express their feelings in a safe and creative way.
  • Noise sensitivity therapies such as Tomatis and the Safe and Sound Protocol. These therapies aim to retrain the ear and nervous system to reduce stress in noisy environments and certain tones that trigger stress.
  • Energy healing.  We are electrical and chemical beings, so it makes sense that people are effected by electric fields and energy.  Despite the controversy, there is evidence that energy medicine can help.
In reality, any therapy that can address any of the child's symptoms and challenges may be explored. Autism is a complex spectrum of symptoms and challenges, so it's not wise to limit treatment to the "standard of care". Autism is a wide spectrum, so we need to widen and expand our thinking.
 
You may have realised that the subject of complementary and alternative therapies is dear to my heart.  That's what made the difference for our son.  I could write much more about this topic, but, I need to keep this post brief.  I have written more about various topics.  If you're interested, please explore the other posts.  I plan on writing a detailed post on this topic, but until then, you may want to explore the post -  4 Ways to Heal Autism Naturally at Home.
 
While you wait for the more detailed post, you can also join our online community for free.  From this community, you can ask questions and get ideas from other parents, including myself.  My job isn't to be the authority on Autism, but my goal is to help parents find the information they need.   Here is the link to the community.  
 

Combining Treatments For Better Outcomes

 
It's important to remember that one size does not fit all. That's why many healthcare professionals recommend combining different treatments for the best possible outcomes. By combining treatments, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can get a comprehensive autism treatment to suit their specific needs.
 
It's particularly important to combine diet and lifestyle improvements with your chosen therapies.  For reasons outlined above, health improvements can improve concentration, anxiety and other challenges that children on the spectrum often experience.
 
Complementary therapies and lifestyle changes can enhance any of the therapies you choose due to their ability to improve health.  When your child's body and brain are healthier, it's much more likely that you'll get good results from other therapies.
 
An added benefit of combining therapies is that you get a wider perspective.  Each therapist has their own experiences to draw on.  It's wise to take advantage of their experience and ask them questions and lean on them for advice.
 
At the end of the day, the key to successful autism treatment is finding the right combination of therapies that work best for each individual and family. 
 
It is important to remember that the goal of autism treatment is not only to reduce symptoms. It is also to help the person reach their full potential.  This means focusing on strengths and abilities as well as challenges.
 
Find a group of parents that you can talk to and share ideas and experiences.  It's amazing how often a comment from a parent can start you moving a new and rewarding direction.  One small idea can make all the difference.
 
Families of children with autism work together to help each other.  It's important to consider the whole family when you choose your combination of therapies.  Each person and family are different, so it's important to learn from others and choose what's right for you and your family.  One way to do this is inside our free community.  You may join via this link.
 

Conclusion

 
Autism is a complex disorder that requires an individualised approach to treatment. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, there are many treatments available that can help people with autism manage their symptoms and lead more fulfilling lives.
 
Treatments can include behavioural therapies, medications, dietary modifications, complementary therapies and educational interventions. With the right combination of treatments, people with autism can find relief from their symptoms and gain greater independence.
 
It is important to remember that each person with autism is unique and will require an individualised approach to treatment. Working with a knowledgeable healthcare team is the best way to ensure the best possible outcome for those with autism.

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