While early educational intervention is key to improving the lives of people with ASD, some parents and professionals believe other treatment approaches play an important role in improving communication skills and reducing behavioral symptoms associated with autism. These complementary therapies might include music, art or animal therapy, among many others, and might be undertaken on an individual basis or through an educational program.
All of these therapies can help by increasing communication skills, developing social interaction and providing a sense of accomplishment. They can provide a non-threatening way for a child on the autism spectrum to develop a positive relationship with a therapist in a safe environment. They can also be productive hobbies in their own right!
Art and music are particularly useful in sensory integration, providing tactile, visual and auditory stimulation. Music therapy is good for speech development and language comprehension. Songs can be used to teach language and increase the ability to put words together. Art therapy provides a nonverbal, symbolic way means of self-expression, and can develop fine motor skills.
Animal therapy might include working with dogs, horseback riding or swimming with dolphins. These animals can provide soothing sensory stimulation, a point of focus and opportunities to learn about behavior and communication. Therapeutic riding programs provide both physical and emotional benefits, improving coordination and motor development while creating a sense of well-being and increasing self-confidence. Dolphin therapy was first used in the 1970s by psychologist David Nathanson, who believed interactions with dolphins would improve a child’s attention, enhancing cognition.
Again, as with all other therapy or treatment approaches, it is important to gather information and make an informed decision to choose a reputable, effective therapy. Keep in mind, however, that little scientific research has been conducted on most complementary therapies. They must be judged by their results on a person-by-person basis.
Use Autism Source to find therapies and other services near you.