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There are many different forms of autism treatment, strategies and intervention to facilitate communication for children on the spectrum. People on the autism spectrum display many different characteristics so there is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach. However, there are several approaches that commonly work for many individuals with autism, and a number of different treatments or strategies for improving communication:
Learning with visuals – using visuals is a strategy that often works well for individuals with autism. Visuals can help individuals understand and learn. Many children with autism use a visual timetable in the classroom at school or visual schedule to explain a sequence of events. Others respond well to social stories. These are stories in word and/or picture form that explain why we do certain things, how to react in certain situations, or why something is going to be different or change. Social stories are often a good way to warn a child that there will be a change in routine and will help avoid anxiety and inappropriate behaviour.
Systems of communication – most individuals with autism will communicate given the right systems and opportunities. One of the most common systems of communication is the picture exchange communication system (PECS) which is often a great way to get children on the spectrum to initiate and request. This system can be used with both verbal and non-verbal individuals and has a number of other visual strategies within the programme that can facilitate understanding, communication and behaviour. See our section on PECS for more information.
Behaviour – individuals with autism are not naturally behaviourally challenging, there are usually triggers to their behaviour. Try and see things from the perspective of a person with autism, they are often highly stressed by people entering their space, making them do things they do not want to do, or upsetting their routine. There are a number of behavioural programs available that focus on autism and communication. One type of intervention that has been shown to work well for individuals with autism is Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). Skills are taught by breaking tasks into small steps and working through these steps. Prompting, Shaping and Rewarding are used to motivate the individual to complete the steps. ABA can be part of a comprehensive program, or used to attempt to teach individual tasks.
Assistive communication – some people have found that using assistive communication devices and / or technology has helped with communication. This can cover anything from using objects of reference and sign language to hi-tech communication machines or ipads.
Social skills training and groups – these groups usually work better with the higher functioning individuals with ASD, often using role play, or re-enacting situations, to help train the individual about social skills and appropriate responses.
Speech and Language Therapy – most individuals with autism have some form of communication delay and many have cognitive difficulties. A speech and language therapist/pathologist will work on speech and language difficulties, literacy difficulties, social skills, alternative forms of communication, and usually be involved in any ongoing therapy programs.
Occupational Therapy – occupational therapists will help individuals develop daily living skills and self care skills. Occupational therapists will also be part of certain therapy approaches such as Sensory Integration.
There are many startegies, activities, resources and ideas for helping individuals with autism. Try not to get hung up one type of treatement or therapy, or believe in miracle cures. Often it is good to use different programs or treatmetns and find the parts that best fit the individual to address their particular problems with communication. There are many things that can be done to improve an individual’s communication, understanding and well-being. For many children with autism, good and early intervention means that they can achieve their goals at school and go on to lead independent and active lives and gain employment when they reach adulthood.
For more information about autism and other communication difficulties, and ideas and strategies to help communication, see our Resources, or for specific fact-sheets with helpful hints about Autism go to the Autism Downloads section.
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